Skip navigation

Jean Nicod Lectures

How Evolution Made Humans Unique

Over the last three million years or so, our lineage has diverged sharply from those of our great ape relatives. Change has been rapid (in evolutionary terms) and pervasive. Morphology, life history, social life, sexual behavior, and foraging patterns have all shifted sharply away from other great apes. No other great ape lineage--including those of chimpanzees and gorillas--seems to have undergone such a profound transformation.

Human communication is grounded in fundamentally cooperative, even shared, intentions. In this original and provocative account of the evolutionary origins of human communication, Michael Tomasello connects the fundamentally cooperative structure of human communication (initially discovered by Paul Grice) to the especially cooperative structure of human (as opposed to other primate) social interaction.

How the Mind Connects with the World

In Things and Places, Zenon Pylyshyn argues that the process of incrementally constructing perceptual representations, solving the binding problem (determining which properties go together), and, more generally, grounding perceptual representations in experience arise from the nonconceptual capacity to pick out and keep track of a small number of sensory individuals.

Essays on Mental Structure

Ray Jackendoff's Language, Consciousness, Culture represents a breakthrough in developing an integrated theory of human cognition. It will be of interest to a broad spectrum of cognitive scientists, including linguists, philosophers, psycholinguists, neuroscientists, cognitive anthropologists, and evolutionary psychologists.

Induction and Statistical Learning Theory

In Reliable Reasoning, Gilbert Harman and Sanjeev Kulkarni—a philosopher and an engineer—argue that philosophy and cognitive science can benefit from statistical learning theory (SLT), the theory that lies behind recent advances in machine learning. The philosophical problem of induction, for example, is in part about the reliability of inductive reasoning, where the reliability of a method is measured by its statistically expected percentage of errors—a central topic in SLT.

The 2002 Jean Nicod Lectures

Many different things are said to have meaning: people mean to do various things; tools and other artifacts are meant for various things; people mean various things by using words and sentences; natural signs mean things; representations in people's minds also presumably mean things. In Varieties of Meaning, Ruth Garrett Millikan argues that these different kinds of meaning can be understood only in relation to each other.

Philosophical Obstacles to a Science of Consciousness

In the years since Daniel Dennett's influential Consciousness Explained was published in 1991, scientific research on consciousness has been a hotly contested battleground of rival theories—"so rambunctious," Dennett observes, "that several people are writing books just about the tumult." With Sweet Dreams, Dennett returns to the subject for "revision and renewal" of his theory of consciousness, taking into account major empirical advances in the field since 1991 as well as recent theoretical challenges.

The study of rationality and practical reason, or rationality in action, has been central to Western intellectual culture. In this invigorating book, John Searle lays out six claims of what he calls the Classical Model of rationality and shows why they are false. He then presents an alternative theory of the role of rationality in thought and action.

Physicalism is the idea that if everything that goes on in the universe is physical, our consciousness and feelings must also be physical. Ever since Descartes formulated the mind-body problem, a long line of philosophers has found the physicalist view to be preposterous. According to John Perry, the history of the mind-body problem is, in part, the slow victory of physical monism over various forms of dualism. Each new version of dualism claims that surely something more is going on with us than the merely physical.

Emotion, Addiction, and Human Behavior

Emotion and addiction lie on a continuum between simple visceral drives such as hunger, thirst, and sexual desire at one end and calm, rational decision making at the other. Although emotion and addiction involve visceral motivation, they are also closely linked to cognition and culture. They thus provide the ideal vehicle for Jon Elster's study of the interrelation between three explanatory approaches to behavior: neurobiology, culture, and choice.The book is organized around parallel analyses of emotion and addiction in order to bring out similarities as well as differences.

How can the baffling problems of phenomenal experience be accounted for? In this provocative book, Fred Dretske argues that to achieve an understanding of the mind it is not enough to understand the biological machinery by means of which the mind does its job. One must understand what the mind's job is and how this task can be performed by a physical system—the nervous system.

Mentalese and Its Semantics

Bound to be widely read and much discussed, The Elm and the Expert, written in Jerry Fodor's usual highly readable, irreverent style, provides a lively discussion of semantic issues about mental representation, with special attention to issues raised by Frege's problem, Twin cases, and the putative indeterminacy of reference. The book extends and revises a view of the relation between mind and meaning that the author has been developing since his 1975 book The Language of Thought.