Philosophy Theses and Dissertations

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    Repositioning Cognitive Kinds
    (2022) Roige Mas, Aida; Carruthers, Peter; Philosophy; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    This dissertation puts forward a series of theoretical proposals aimed to advance our understanding of cognitive kinds. The first chapter introduces the general debates that provide the philosophical underpinnings for the topics addressed in each of the following chapters. Chapter two compares and distinguishes between modules of the mind and mechanisms-as-causings, arguing that they should not be conflated in cognitive science. Additionally, it provides a novel “toolbox” model of accounts of mechanisms, and discusses what makes any such account adequate. Chapter three addresses the question of whether there is a role within the new mechanistic philosophy of science for representations. It advances a proposal on how to carve working entity types, so that they may include representational explanans. Chapter four offers an account of mental disorders, one that captures the regulative ideal behind psychiatry’s inclusion of certain conditions as psychopathologies. Mental disorders are alterations in the production of some mental outputs (e.g. behaviors, beliefs, emotions, desires), such that their degree of reasons-responsiveness is extremely diminished with respect to what we would folk-psychologically expect it to be.
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    (2022) Zhang, Yichi; Pacuit, Eric E.; Santorio, Paolo P.; Philosophy; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Inquisitive semantics offers a unified analysis of declarative and interrogative sentences by construing information exchange as a process of raising and resolving issues. In this dissertation, I apply and extend inquisitive semantics in various new ways. On the one hand, I build upon the theoretical insight of inquisitive semantics and explore the prospect of incorporating other types of content into our conception of information exchange. On the other hand, the logical framework underlying inquisitive semantics is also of great interest in itself as it enjoys certain unique properties and is thus worth further investigation. In the first paper, I provide an account of live possibilities and model the dynamics of bringing a possibility to salience using inquisitive semantics. This account gives rise to a new dynamic analysis of conditionals, which is capable of capturing what I call the Extended Sobel Inference. In the second paper, drawing on the fact that disjunction in inquisitive semantics is understood as introducing a set of alternative answers to a question, I propose a Questions-Under-Discussion-based account of informational redundancy to tackle various Hurford sentences. In the third paper, I explore the prospect of cashing out the theoretical intuition behind inquisitive semantics using a non-bivalent framework. I develop a new logic which invalidates the Law of Excluded Middle just like inquisitive logic, but unlike inquisitive logic, it employs a negation that vindicates Double Negation Elimination.
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    Philosophy and Translatability
    (2021) Enos, Casey; Rey, Georges R; Philosophy; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Can anything that can be said in one language be translated, without loss of meaning, into any other? Katz, inspired by Frege and others, argued for an affirmative answer to this question and proposed a Principle of Translatability. Since then, this alleged principle has come under scrutiny from linguists, who have proposed a number of counterexamples. While the consequences for Katz’s exact formulation of his principle are severe, the interpretation of the empirical data is often difficult and it is unclear whether slightly weaker principles may obtain. In my dissertation, I examine the literature discussing translatability and argue that it has suffered from a lack of precision regarding key terms, especially meaning and language. I propose that putting the question of translatability in terms of what Chomsky called I-languages allows better theoretical traction, although the exact question that we end up with looks very different from the one that we started with.
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    Semantics and pragmatics in a modular mind
    (2021) McCourt, Michael Sullivan; Williams, Alexander; Philosophy; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    This dissertation asks how we should understand the distinction between semantic and pragmatic aspects of linguistic understanding within the framework of mentalism, on which the study of language is a branch of psychology. In particular, I assess a proposal on which the distinction between semantics and pragmatics is ultimately grounded in the modularity or encapsulation of semantic processes. While pragmatic processes involved in understanding the communicative intentions of a speaker are non-modular and highly inferential, semantic processes involved in understanding the meaning of an expression are modular and encapsulated from top-down influences of general cognition. The encapsulation hypothesis for semantics is attractive, since it would allow the semantics-pragmatics distinction to cut a natural joint in the communicating mind. However, as I argue, the case in favor of the modularity hypothesis for semantics is not particularly strong. Many of the arguments offered in its support are unsuccessful. I therefore carefully assess the relevant experimental record, in rapport with parallel debates about modular processing in other domains, such as vision. I point to several observations that raise a challenge for the encapsulation hypothesis for semantics; and I recommend consideration of alternative notions of modularity. However, I also demonstrate some principled strategies that proponents of the encapsulation hypothesis might deploy in order to meet the empirical challenge that I raise. I conclude that the available data neither falsify nor support the modularity hypothesis for semantics, and accordingly I develop several strategies that might be pursued in future work. It has also been argued that the encapsulation of semantic processing would entail (or otherwise strongly recommend) a particular approach to word meaning. However, in rapport with the literature on polysemy—a phenomenon whereby a single word can be used to express several related concepts, but not due to generality—I show that such arguments are largely unsuccessful. Again, I develop strategies that might be used, going forward, to adjudicate among the options regarding word meaning within a mentalistic linguistics.
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    (2021) Kalewold, Kalewold Hailu; Darden, Lindley; Philosophy; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    This dissertation advances the new mechanistic philosophy of science by developing novel accounts of activities and good parts. In the first chapter, I develop a Hybrid Account of activities that integrates production and difference-making approaches to causation, enabling the identification and individuation of causally productive activities. In the second chapter, my account of good parthood grounds being a good part in the role parts play in mechanisms as activity-enablers as well as their inclusion in what I call the explanatory mosaic of science. This account is robust enough to characterize parts of mechanisms throughout the life sciences. In the third chapter, I apply the account I develop to the case of the use of race in epidemiology and biomedicine. I show how the mechanism discovery approach, and the accounts I develop in earlier chapters, offer a normatively and explanatorily attractive methodology to researching, diagnosing, and treating complex trait disorders. The dissertation applies these accounts to case studies from the life sciences to show how they solve outstanding problems in philosophy and biology.