HPS Alumni Lecture - Gualtiero Piccinini

March 26, 2020 - 6:00pm

Title: Neurocognitive Mechanisms: Explaining Biological Cognition

In my forthcoming book, _Neurocognitive Mechanisms: Explaining Biological Cognition_, I provide the foundations for a neurocomputational explanation of cognition based on contemporary cognitive neuroscience. I begin by defending an ontologically egalitarian account of composition and realization, according to which all levels are equally real. I then explicate multiple realizability and mechanisms within this ontologically egalitarian framework, defend a goal-contribution account of teleological functions, and defend a mechanistic version of functionalism. This provides the foundation for a mechanistic account of computation, which in turn clarifies the ways in which the computational theory of cognition is a multilevel mechanistic theory supported by contemporary cognitive neuroscience. I argue that cognition is computational at least in a generic sense. I defend the computational theory of cognition from standard objections yet I also rebut putative a priori arguments for the computational theory of cognition. I contend that the typical vehicles of neural computations are representations and that, contrary to the received view, the representations posited by the computational theory of cognition are observable and manipulable in the laboratory. I also contend that neural computations are neither digital nor analog; instead, neural computations are sui generis. I conclude by investigating the relation between computation and consciousness, suggesting that consciousness may be a functional phenomenon without being computational in nature.

Location and Address

University Club - Gold Room