Mind & Cognition @ Edinburgh
The intersection between philosophy of mind and the cognitive sciences is one of the most exciting and fast-moving contemporary interdisciplinary arenas. Within this field, the Edinburgh research team ranks among the world leaders, and specializes in the study of embodiment, consciousness, perception, action, and situated reason. In the 2009 Philosophical Gourmet (Leiter) report, the Edinburgh department ranked as UK number 2 (beaten only by Oxford) in the area of philosophy of cognitive science.
Focal topics include the debates concerning extended and embodied cognition, the nature of perception and perceptual experience, the nature of computation, agency and the will, phenomenology and consciousness, the metaphysics and epistemology of mind, bounded and situated reason, predictive coding and neurocomputational approaches to mind, and (in an emerging synergy with the Epistemology research cluster) the epistemological ramifications of extended cognition.
The Mind and Cognition grouping benefits hugely from research and faculty in the nearby School of Informatics (ranked number 1 in the last two UK Research Assessment Exercises) which brings together research in Computer Science, Cognitive Science, Computational Linguistics and Artificial Intelligence. The group also enjoys regular contact with Psychology, Linguistics (especially the unique and world-leading Language Evolution and Computation Unit), Human Cognitive Neuroscience, and Music (especially the Institute for Music and Human Development). To promote such contacts the group organizes one of the university's most diverse interdisciplinary reading group: a bi-weekly interdisciplinary seminar uniting Philosophy, Psychology, Neuroscience, Linguistics and Informatics (the PPIG series). The Mind and Cognition group regularly hosts research events in this area, such as international conferences, workshops, and reading groups. Historical context is provided by a major interdisciplinary development in environmental philosophy (led by Pauline Phemister) on "Embodied Values".
What's Hot in...
...Mind and Cognition
- Andy Clark works on the philosophical foundations of cognitive science and studies mind as an embodied and situated phenomenon.
- Jesper Kallestrup, working on mind and metaphysics, helps cement links with the Epistemology grouping led by Duncan Pritchard.
- Aidan McGlynn works on issues in the intersection of epistemology and the philosophies of language and mind, including the nature and importance of knowledge and belief, self-knowledge, and assertion and implicature.
- Mark Sprevak joined the group in January 2011, and works on Philosophy of Mind and Philosophy of Cognitive Science.
- Nick Treanor works on mental representation, on the nature of the propositional space that is the object of thought, and on how these issues connect to normative questions concerning cognitive success and cognitive value.
- Tillman Vierkant works on agency and the will and provides a bridge to the world-class Ethics grouping led by Mike Ridge.
- Dave Ward works on the relationships between perception, agency and understanding.
In addition, there are a number of other members of faculty with interests in mind and cognition, including Matthew Chrisman, Pauline Phemister, Mike Ridge, and Duncan Pritchard. Key extra-departmental contacts include Miranda Anderson, Jim Hurford, Simon Kirby, Robert McIntosh, Jon Oberlander, Katie Overy, Paul Schweizer, Richard Shillcock, Alan Smaill, Mark Steedman, and Barbara Webb.
Externally funded research activity
In 2006 the group (PI Andy Clark) secured major funding for a three-year ESF/AHRC project on the core topics of consciousness, agency and embodiment. The Edinburgh project formed (along with a Bristol University team, initially led by Susan Hurley, then by Finn Spicer) the UK part of the CONTACT (Consciousness in Interaction) collective, comprising 8 teams from four European countries (plus external members from the USA) whose joint expertise spanned cognitive psychology, philosophy of mind, history and philosophy of science, neuroscience and artificial intelligence. External members of the Edinburgh project included Alva Noë, Michael Wheeler, Mark Rowlands, and Paco Calvo-Garzon. The Edinburgh grant supported a post-doctoral fellow, a run of conferences and workshops, and a PhD studentship. The group also secured additional ESF funding for two 'networking meetings' ('Sense of Agency' and 'Self and Other') held in 2007.
Vierkant is a co-operating partner of the VW sponsored project Willenshandlungen
Clark was Co-investigator on an AHRC Speculative Research Grant 'Extending the Senses and Self Through Novel Technologies' (PI Yvonne Rogers, Open University). This grant ran 2008-2009.
Clark is currently co-investigator on an EPSRC funded project (PI Alan Smaill, Informatics, Edinburgh, 2008-2011) "A cognitive model of axiom formulation and reformulation with application to AI and software engineering" .
Research groups and events
The Mind and Cognition cluster supports a large array of student and faculty events, a sample of which follow:
Regular research groups
- The Philosophy, Psychology, and Informatics Research Group (otherwise known as the 'PPIG' group) meets on alternating Wednesdays during term-time at 4pm.
- The Philosophy of Technology reading group meets regularly in room 1.01 of the Dugald Stewart Building.
- EPiPHENy: Edinburgh Philosophy and Phenomenology reading group meets on alternating Thursdays at 2-3pm.
Upcoming and recent conferences and workshops
- July 22nd - 23rd 2013: Embodied Music Cognition (EMuCog) Conference, University of Edinburgh
- December 3rd - 17th 2012: New Waves in Philosophy of Mind, Online Conference
- October 24th 2012: Models & Explanations in Science & Cognitive Sciences, University of Edinburgh
- October 13th 2012: CoMiC Conference & 6th Mind Network Meeting, University of Edinburgh
- October 27th 2010: Heidegger and Cognitive Science Workshop, University of Edinburgh.
- June 3rd - 4th 2010: Cognitive Ecology conference, University of Edinburgh.
- March 15th 2010: Phil of Cog Sci Doctoral Group ("DoG") Workshop, University of Edinburgh.
- January 19th 2010: Predicitve Coding Workshop, University of Edinburgh.
- November 6th 2009: Tye Workshop, University of Edinburgh.
- July 6th 2009: The Metaphysics of Mind postgraduate conference, University of Edinburgh.
- May 11th 2009: Graduate Worshop in Mind & Cognition, University of Edinburgh.
- December 11th 2008: The Metaphysics of Mind workshop, University of Edinburgh.
- 30th June 2008: Workshop "Sense of Agency: from sensorimotor processing to meta-representation", University of Edinburgh.
- 28/29th June 2008: Conference "Consciousness, Agency, and the Will", University of Edinburgh.
- 27th June 2008: PPNB (Philosophy, Psychology, Neuroscience, and Biology) Graduate Conference, University of Edinburgh.
- 23/24th November 2007: Workshop "Self and Other in Social Neuroscience and Philosophy of Mind", Institute of Philosophy, School of Advanced Study, University of London.
The Masters specialization in Mind, Language and Embodied Cognition
Faculty from the Mind and Cognition grouping provide dedicated courses for the cross-disciplinary masters specialization in Mind, Language and Embodied Cognition. This benefits from an international advisory panel that includes Daniel Dennett, Alva Noë, Jesse Prinz, Sean Kelly, and Thomas Metzinger, as well as leading representatives from neuroscience, robotics, cognitive and developmental psychology, and cognitive anthropology.
There are around 30 postgraduate students working on mind and cognition at the University of Edinburgh, making the Edinburgh group the largest in the UK outside of Oxford.