Colloquium Lecture: Nico Orlandi (UC-Santa Cruz)


Friday, February 26, 2021, 3:00pm to 4:30pm


Zoom Webinar

This talk follows the read-ahead model; the format consists of a brief 20-minute lecture followed by a 60-minute Q&A session. All attendees must register in advance to gain entry. Registered attendees will receive a copy of Prof. Orlandi’s paper via email several days prior to the event.  


Webinar Registration Instructions:

  • Click here to access the Zoom webinar registration page:  Webinar Registration
  • Complete registration form and click ‘Register’ at the bottom of the page.
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Labels in Thought:

 Standard accounts of concepts in philosophy and in cognitive psychology assume a symmetry between the representational complexity of the process of concept-attainment and the representational complexity of the product of such attainment. Only concepts that are complex or structured are generally taken to be learned. If a concept is atomic or unstructured, on the other hand, then it is thought to be triggered or “occasioned” by experience, and this triggering is supposed to be a process that does not make use of representations. I argue that we should reject this commonly accepted symmetry between process and product. First, I offer examples of how complex concepts might be learned from processes that are not representationally complex. Then I demonstrate the converse, showing how we could learn simple concepts through representationally complex processes, specifically using the notion of an object-file. This problematization of the symmetry between the process and products of concept-acquisition means that the learnability of a concept is not an indicator of its structure; this, among other things, supports reviving an atomistic view of concepts, according to which concepts are akin to labels in thought.



Speaker Bio 

Prof. Nico Orlandi  

Professor of Philosophy @University of California, Santa Cruz 

I am a philosopher of mind and of cognitive science at the University of California, Santa Cruz. My work draws on the history of philosophy and on contemporary research in cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and in computer science. A central theme of my research is understanding what kind of capacity perception is, what it presupposes, and what kind of relationship it affords with the environment. In my recent work, I have developed an anti-constructivist account of perception that contrasts with philosophical and psychological orthodoxy. My present projects concern (a) Bayesian and predictive coding models of perception; (b) conceptual development, and (c) the significance of fMRI research for understanding cognition (with a particular focus on the gender literature). I also have interests in epistemology, in aesthetics, and I am affiliated with the Feminist Studies department at UCSC.