Symposium: Gualtiero Piccinini, Computation and Representation in Cognitive Neuroscience

Cognitive neuroscientists routinely explain cognition in terms of neural computations over neural representations. Yet the notions of neural representation and neural computation remain poorly understood. There is no consensus on how to construed these notions and how to relate them to the notions of computation and representation used in other disciplines, including psychology and computer science. In this symposium, some of the leading philosophers who work on foundations of cognitive neuroscience will come together to push the debate forward on these central concepts.

Oron Shagrir is the Schulman Professor of Philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His research focuses on the nature of computation, and in particular on the role of computational approaches and the computational- level in cognitive neuroscience. He defends the view that computing is some sort of modeling. He is the editor, with Jack Copeland and Carl Posy, of Computability: Turing, Gödel, Church, and Beyond (MIT 2013), and the author of articles published in Mind, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Philosophical Studies, Philosophy of Science, The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, and other journals.

Carl F. Craver is Professor of Philosophy and Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology at Washington University in St. Louis. He works in the philosophy of neuroscience exploring the norms distinctive of mechanistic explanations. He also works as a neuropsychologist exploring the agential capacities of individuals with episodic amnesia.

Andrea Scarantino is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Georgia State University. He has published more than 30 papers in philosophical and scientific journals, including the Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Philosophical Studies, Philosophy of Science, Emotion Review, Animal Behavior, Journal of Biological Physics and others. His primary research focus is on the nature and function of emotions, but he retains a strong interest in information theory and in non-linguistic communication. He is the editor of Emotion Researcher, ISRE’s Sourcebook for Research on Emotion and Affect.

Nir Fresco holds a PhD in Philosophy of Cognitive Science from the University of New South Wales, a Master’s degree in Philosophy and a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. In 2013 he was awarded the international Goldberg Memorial Prize for outstanding graduate research in the area of computing and philosophy by the IACAP. His postdoctoral studies, thus far at the Hebrew University, have focused mainly on the explanatory role of information theory in cognitive science. Fresco has recently completed a research fellowship at the Israel Institute for Advanced Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem working on the theoretical foundations of computation. This work is a continuation of his doctoral studies on the role of computation in cognitive science. In addition to his research on theoretical cognitive science, he has been working on the ethics of emerging and developing information technologies.

David Kaplan is a Lecturer in the Department of Cognitive Science and an Associate Investigator of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders (CCD) and Perception in Action Research Centre (PARC) at Macquarie University. Before coming to Macquarie, he completed his PhD at Duke University (2007). From 2007-2009, he held a James S. McDonnell postdoctoral fellow in the Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology (PNP) Program at Washington University in St. Louis. From 2009-2013, he completed postdoctoral training in neurophysiology at Washington University in St. Louis – School of Medicine. During this period, he led a project investigating movement planning and limb representation in the posterior parietal cortex. His current research is organized into two interrelated streams. One research stream addresses foundational explanatory, methodological, and theoretical issues in cognitive science and neuroscience. The other research stream addresses the neural mechanisms underlying sensorimotor integration and movement planning, with a particular focus on reach planning and spatial representation in the posterior parietal cortex.

Gualtiero Piccinini is professor in the Department of Philosophy and Associate Director of the Center for Neurodynamics at the University of Missouri – St. Louis. He works on the philosophy of mind and related sciences. In 2015 he published a book with Oxford University Press, entitled Physical Computation: A Mechanistic Account.