The University of Arizona

Events & News

Cog Sci Brown Bag Seminar

DateFriday, October 16, 2009
Time12:00 pm
LocationGS 906
SpeakerIris Oved, Ph.D.
TitleComputer Science - School of Information Sciences, Technology and Arts
AffiliationUniversity of Arizona

Perception and Inference in the Acquisition of Simple Concepts

Abstract: Most people find it *obvious* that concepts like APPLE, DOG, WATER, CACTUS, SWIM, CHIRP, FURRY, and SMOOTH (i.e., lexical concepts) are acquired from perceptual experiences along with some kind of inferential procedure. Most models of how these concepts are inferentially acquired, however, orce the acquired concepts to be representationally complex, built from, and composed by, the more primitive representations (e.g., GOLD is built from perceptual representations of yellowness, shininess, malleability, and so on). Since at least the time of Plato, philosophers and psychologists have struggled to find complex sets of representations that have the same meanings, definitionally or probabilistically, as these concepts. For example, to think about the property-kind *being gold* is not the same as to think about the complex property-kind *being (probably) yellowish & (probably) shiny & (probably) malleable...*. I call this Fodor's Challenge: Find an acquisition process that is genuinely inferential and yields a concept that genuinely is one of these lexical concepts. Rather than continue the pursuit of a complex representation that has the same meaning as our concept GOLD, I propose we explore what it would take for an agent to inferentially acquire these concepts as new representational simples. I offer a model on which many lexical concepts are acquired from perception and inference, without being built up from, and composed by, the representations involved. The model is inspired by Saul Kripke's (1970) baptism process, for assigning meanings to linguistic terms.