2017 Simon Award: Professor Andrea Scarantino

Dear Colleagues,

It is my privilege to announce that the International Association for Computing and Philosophy’s executive board has selected Andrea Scarantino for the 2017 Herbert A. Simon Award for Outstanding Research in Computing and Philosophy, which specifically recognizes scholars at an early stage of their academic career whose research is likely to reshape debates at the nexus of Computing and Philosophy.

Andrea Scarantino is Professor in the Department of Philosophy and in the Neuroscience Institute at Georgia State University, where he has served since 2005. He holds doctorates in History and Philosophy of Science (University of Pittsburgh, 2005) and Economics (Università Cattolica di Milano, 2000). Professor Scarantino has been awarded a John Templeton Foundation Grant on the Philosophy and Science of Self-Control (2016) and a Humboldt Fellowship for Experienced Researchers, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Germany (2015-ongoing).

He is the editor of the forthcoming Routledge Handbook of Emotion Theory, a unique interdisciplinary resource that features chapters on all central theoretical challenges of contemporary emotion theory in a variety of disciplines. Professor Scarantino also serves as editor of Emotion Researcher (www.emotionresearcher.com), the sourcebook of the International Society for Research on Emotions, the main online reference resource on emotions currently available.

Professor Scarantino’s work encompasses two main topics: information and emotion. His primary objective has been to provide an explicative definition for both concepts that sharpens them while serving useful theoretical purposes. In more recent times, Scarantino has started to connect the two principal strands of his research. He is exploring what kinds of information the expression of an emotion broadcasts and how emotional expressions may have provided our ancestors with an informational infrastructure for the emergence of language.

With respect to information, Scarantino has argued that we are dealing with a mongrel concept in need of disambiguation, and offered a general theory of (natural) information as consisting of anything that makes a probabilistic difference to an uncertain outcome. This probabilistic understanding of information is shown to derive from converging insights of Shannon’s theory of communication and Bayesian confirmation theory and to be satisfactory with respect to the desiderata of contemporary cognitive science.

Some of his most significant articles on the nature of information and the role it plays in communicative episodes include “Information as a Probabilistic Difference Maker” (Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 2015), “Contextually Variable Signals Can Be Functionally Referential,” co-authored with Zanna Clay (Animal Behavior, 2014), “Rethinking Functional Reference” (Philosophy of Science, 2013), “Animal Communication as Information Mediated Influence,” in Animal Communication Theory: Information and Influence (2013, Ulrich Stegmann, ed.), “Information Processing, Computation and Cognition,” co-authored with Gualtiero Piccinini (Journal of Biological Physics, 2011), and “Information Without Truth,” co-authored with Gualtiero Piccinini (Metaphilosophy, 2010).

Professor Scarantino has also written extensively about emotions, arguing that the field has gone astray in trying to define emotions as either cognitions or feelings. As an alternative, Scarantino has proposed a general theory of emotions as action control systems, arguing that it is the only theory that makes sense of the distinctive way in which emotions motivate us to act, namely with urgency and with only a partial assessment of the information relevant to the decision at hand.

Some of his most significant articles on the nature of emotions and their complex connections to actions include “Do Emotions Cause Actions, and If So How?”(Emotion Review, 2017), “The Philosophy of Emotions and Its Impact on Affective Science”, in The Handbook of Emotions (2016, Lisa Feldman Barrett, Michael Lewis, and Jeanette Haviland-Jones, eds.), “Voodoo Dolls and Angry Lions: How Emotions Explain Arational Actions”, co-authored with Michael Nielsen (Philosophical Studies, 2015), “The Motivational Theory of Emotions”, in Moral Psychology and Human Agency (2014, Daniel Jacobson and Justin D’Arms, eds.), “Basic Emotions, Psychological Construction and the Problem of Variability,” in The Psychological Construction of Emotion (2015, James Russell and Lisa Feldman Barrett, eds), and “Insights and Blindspots of the Cognitivist Theory of Emotions” (British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 2010).

Professor Scarantino will present the Simon Award Keynote Address at IACAP 2017, June 26-28, Stanford University. See http://www.iacap.org/iacap-2017/ for conference information and submission guidelines.

Please join us at IACAP 2017 to congratulate Professor Scarantino on this well-deserved award.

Best Wishes,

Don Berkich
IACAP President