SOPhiA 2017

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Styles of Reasoning and Modularity in Scientific Cognition
(Philosophy of Mind , English)

Ian Hacking's notion of style of reasoning is a very broad unit of analysis in philosophy and history of science which seeks, mainly, to integrate three different levels of scientific thinking: the individual, the social, and the historical. The notion was generally accepted and incorporated to the philosophical literature and only recently -- most notably by Kusch (2010) and Bueno (2012) -- it has been pointed out that its vagueness and lack of analytical definition do not allow for systematic use.
One of the most interesting features of the notion of style is its potential to explain the complex relationship between individual and social dimensions of scientific cognition. Hacking believes that this interaction gives shape to scientific thinking and methodology in every particular science, and that it 'provides the space in which to understand scientific reason' (Hacking, 2009: 18).
Throughout his work, Hacking has highlighted the historical and social dimensions of styles of reasoning. However, in his most recent work, he claims that even if styles are culturally shaped, they are also rooted in some innate cognitive capacities which are part of our cognitive architecture. Hacking does not offer any argument to back up this idea, but he suggests that modularity is the key concept to understand the relation between styles and cognition. (ibid: 38)
I intend to follow Hacking's suggestion by exploring in what sense(s) styles of reasoning could be related to the idea that the mind/brain is modular. In particular, I will analyse three different versions of the latter concept: Fodor's classical notion (1983, 2001), Sperber's reformulation (1996, 2002), and Carey's version (1995).
I will favor Carey's account of mental modules as domain-specific cognitive abilities which can be seen as naive theories with a central explanatory role in our cognitive life. Then, I will try to argue that Carey's ideas about the modularity of mental capacities could play an important role in trying to give a coherent and systematic explanation of the elusive notion of style of reasoning.

Bueno, O. (2012). Styles of reasoning: A pluralist view. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 43(4), 657-665.
Carey, S. (1995). On the origin of causal understanding. In D. Sperber, D. Premack, & J. Premack (Eds.), Causal Cognition. A Multidisciplinary Debate, Clarendon Press, pp. 268-308.
Fodor, J. (1983) The Modularity of Mind, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.
Fodor, J. A. (2001). The Mind Doesn't Work that Way. MIT Press.
Hacking, I. (2009). Scientific Reason. Taipei: Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences.
Kusch, M. (2010). Hacking's historical epistemology: a critique of styles of reasoning. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A, 41(2), 158-173.
Sperber, D. (1996). Explaining Culture: a Naturalistic Approach. Oxford-Blackwell.
Sperber, D. (2002). In defense of massive modularity. In I. Dupoux (ed.), Language, Brain and Cognitive Development. MIT Press.

Chair: Christian Feldbacher
Time: 15:05-15:35, 14 September 2017 (Thursday)
Location: SR 1.004

Matias Osta Velez  
(Universite Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne, France)

B.A. (4 years) in Philosophy

Master in Logic

PHD candidate in philosophy of science at the IHPST (Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology) and the University of Paris 1, Sorbonne.

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