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O'Madagain "Three Kinds of Beliefs in Humans and Other Animals"

19.4.2017

We would like to cordially invite you to the lecture of dr. Cathal O'Madagain (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology):
"Three Kinds of Beliefs in Humans and Other Animals"

The lecture will take place on Wednesday (19th April), 14:05 - 15:40, in the room B9 of the Philosophical Faculty of the University of Hradec Králové.

Abstract:
lt is widely accepted that there are two representational systems in humans and other animals. One is a fast associative-learning mechanism that makes predictions based on gestalt features of an environment - for example forming a prediction whether an approaching conspecific is a threat based on their posture. The other is a slower 'inferential' system that is responsive to updates in evidence - for example, deciding whether a bridge is safe to cross on the basis of watching others cross safely over it. What is particularly interesting is when these systems produce opposite results - for example, system 1 telling us that a rope-bridge is treacherous, while system 2 tells us, based on evidence, that it is perfectly safe. ln such cases, we find ourselves conflicted about what to do, and the distinction between system 1 and 2 provides a great e􀀠xplanation for why. Some have suggested that the second 'system' is the privilege of humans and that other animals don't employ it. Here, however, I argue that if any kind of beliefs are unique to humans, it is not beliefs as they are characterized by system 2, which a great deal of evidence indicates are indeed available to other animals. Rather, I propose, there may be a third kind of system still. This is a system that updates or manages our beliefs in light of rational norms, and it is distinct from the second system in all the ways the second system can be distinguished from the first. I explore how 'system 3' beliefs might be tested in non-verbal animals, and finally I consider how conflicts between the second and third systems may produce dilemmas just as conflicts between systems 1 and 2 can, suggesting that some classic 'philosophical' conundrums may in fact be a product of these conflicts.

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