Speaker: Matteo Colombo (TILPS)
Title: Bayesian cognitive science, inference to the best explanatory framework, and the value of specialization
Abstract: It is widely assumed that the Bayesian framework enjoys special epistemic virtues over alternative frameworks for representing and dealing with uncertainty. If this framework enjoys these epistemic virtues, then cognitive scientists have reason to privilege it for explaining phenomena whose production involves uncertainty. However, it is far from obvious that the Bayesian framework actually enjoys such special epistemic virtues. The adoption of this framework cannot be justified by simply appealing to its superiority in allowing us to effectively tackle problems of uncertain inference. Rather, what both justifies the widespread adoption of the Bayesian framework in cognitive science is related to the fact that, compared to alternatives, it currently comprises a richer body of tools that can be opportunistically exploited. Exploitation of existing models and tools can foster specialization, and specialization can yield relatively higher epistemic utility for both individual scientists and the cognitive science community as a whole. Thus, the case of current Bayesian cognitive science illustrates three general points about the rationality and dynamics of theory choice in science: first, the utility of adopting a scientific framework partly depends on the level of specialization it can foster, second, this level of specialization is a function of the adoption of the same framework by others; third and finally, exploiting an existing framework is often the rational thing to do for scientists.
More info: http://neurophilosophy.unimi.it/index.php/next-philoneuroseminars/icalrepeat.detail/2014/06/10/167/31/matteo-colombo