Language, Cognition, and Society: Trends in Contemporary Western Philosophy
Research Members: Norman Y. Teng, Cheng-Hung Tsai, Hsiang-Yun Chen, Timothy Joseph Lane, Tzu-Wei Hung, Wan-Chuan Fang, Hung-Ju Chen
The IEAS’s thematic research project, Language, Cognition, and Society: Trends in Contemporary Western Philosophy (LCS), formerly known as Neo-Pragmatism, is an integrative project covering five philosophical topics, including
(i) Civic philosophy,
(ii) Language and sensorimotor systems,
(iii) Reference and contexts,
(iv) Concept, cognition, and action, and
First, we have recently developed a version of civic philosophy that (1) addresses the joint demands of democracy and science, (2) prioritizes humanitarian governance and public discourse, (3) incorporates fundamental ideas of political liberalism and Confucian philosophy, (4) pays careful attention to the asymmetrical power relations between a strong authoritarian regime and a small democracy, and (5) makes use of findings from cognitive science and metaphor research to develop a discourse methodology suitable for this project. On that basis, we hope to delve further into the embodied, embedded, metaphoric, normative and reflective dimensions of human life, and develop an empirically informed ethics and an account of civic virtues in a democratic society.
Second, we reject the idea of human thought as classical symbol manipulation and suggest understanding human thought as sensorimotor interactions. We argue that a sensorimotor system for instrumental actions can be revised to explicate communicative actions involving language processing. In short, clarifying the shared mechanisms underlying action and language helps us understanding communicative actions as well as more complicated sociocognitive skills, such as cheater detection and moral judgment.
Third, we investigate the impact and implication of contexts on the analysis of reference and related philosophical semantics from three perspectives: (1) Attitudinal contexts: we study the problematics of reference in attitudinal contexts; (2) Contexts of self-reference: we examine the allegedly unquestionable significance of de se reference in contemporary analytical philosophy; (3) Social and political contexts: we look into whether traditional theories of reference are applicable to politically charged terms (such as “marriage”, “sex/gender”, “disability” and “identity”) and explore the possibility of refinement or revision.
Fourth, whether the so-called skillful copings are conceptual in nature, and whether they involve intentionality, and hence cognition, are issues that have been hotly debated. Among those involved in the debates are prominent philosophers such as Hubert Dreyfus, John Searle and John McDowell. We shall carefully examine and assess some important aspects of the above-mentioned debates in the topic entitled “Concept, Cognition, and Action”.
Finally, one of the most important trends in contemporary philosophy, especially the philosophy of cognition, is neurophilosophy--the integration of philosophy and neuroscience. Prior to the 21th century, philosopher conducted most research on self and consciousness. Now, many philosophers work closely with neuroscientists. We continue to ask questions motivated by philosophy, but seek answers through experimental investigation. Our research focuses on content and levels of consciousness; a special philosophical motivation is that we hope to provide a better understanding of the self. Our major lines of research are conducted in conjunction with Taipei Medical University’s Brain and Consciousness Research Center, which is housed on the 9th floor of Shuang Ho Hospital. There, inspired by philosophical concerns, we conduct multi-modal research on unresponsive wakefulness (vegetative state), depression, schizophrenia, sleep and many other disturbances of self or consciousness. Among the tools we employ are fMRI, MRS, EEG, PET, TMS, and tDCS. Of course we also use multiple techniques for describing conscious experience and the experience of self. In short, we are trying to demonstrate that some traditional, philosophical issues are now empirically tractable, and that by pursuing these lines of research we can help to reduce the suffering of patients. Philosophy, properly used, can inform the design of experiments and the interpretation of results, for the betterment of science and humanity.