Abstracts for ConChaMo 5

Edouard Machery: Conceptual Change and the Plurality of Concepts

In Doing without Concepts (OUP 2009), I argued that there are several radically different kinds of concepts--a view I called "the heterogeneity hypothesis"--and I provided a substantial amount of evidence in support of this hypotheis. However, I did not examine the implications of the heterogeneity hypothesis for the nature of conceptual change. In this talk, I will spell out these implications.

Hanne Andersen: Conceptual change across disciplines

Much scientific activity today is based on interdisciplinary collaborataions in which multiple scientists with different areas of expertise share and integrate their cognitive resources in producing new results that cut across disciplinary boundaries. In this talk, I shall give an account of how conceptual structures originating in different disciplines or research fields can be interlocked, and of how scientists participating in interdisciplinary collaboration develop new concepts that cut across disciplinary boundaries. On the basis of this account I shall discuss some currently popular notions for the analysis of interdisciplinarity, namely Galison’s notion of trading zones and pidgin and creole languagues and Star and Griesemer’s notion of boundary objects, and I shall argue that while these notions have focused primarily on plasticity, the possibility of local interpretation, and simplification in the conceptual exchange, more attention needs to be given to precision and constraints when analyzing conceptual change that happens across disciplinary boundaries.

Ingo Brigandt: Epistemic aims and values tied to a biological concept: conceptual change, conceptual variation, and interdisciplinary coordination

Abstract: Philosophers typically construe a concept in terms of the entities to which it refers and/or the beliefs (about the referent) the concept embodies. These beliefs are relevant for how the concept is used, but I highlight that an additional aspect of a scientific concept’s practical use is what the concept is used for, in other words, the particular epistemic aim pursued with the concept’s use (e.g., attempting to explain a particular phenomenon, while another concept is used for a different explanatory task). While the beliefs about the concept’s referent are representations of nature, an epistemic aim is different as it pertains to what scientists attempt to achieve. Moreover, epistemic aims operate on the level of epistemic values, for instance, the aim of explaining a particular phenomenon is tied to certain standards of what counts as an adequate explanation. Taking the epistemic aims and values tied to a concept into account is important for a variety of (related) reasons. Conceptual change is guided by the continued pursuit of an epistemic aim and occurs when new scientific knowledge relevant to this aim is acquired. If a concept comes to be used for somewhat different aims by different groups of scientists (or if different standards of explanatory adequacy underlie an otherwise shared explanatory aim), conceptual variation across scientists can result. Conversely, some epistemic aims (and explanatory standards) motivate and coordinate interdisciplinary research and explanatory integration. Overall, the epistemic aims and values tied to scientific concepts influence the trajectories of scientific practice. I illustrate this based on two cases from biology, the homology concept and the concept of evolutionary novelty.

Mariana Levin: A complex systems perspective on strategy emergence

The aim of this talk is to discuss the development of analytical and theoretical infrastructure to explore how novel problem solving strategies can emerge during mathematical problem solving activity. In contrast to previous literature on strategy change, this research accounts for the interplay between conceptual and procedural knowledge by modeling strategies-in-action as complex knowledge systems (“strategy systems”) that coordinate knowledge of diverse form and function toward the solution of problems. The strategy system model was developed in dialogue with the Knowledge in Pieces epistemological perspective (diSessa, 1993) and through a grounded analysis of six hours of videotaped interaction between a pre-algebra student and a researcher in which the student refined an initial strategy to construct a conceptually more sophisticated strategy. The complex systems perspective on mathematical concepts and strategies that is developed in the core case study exemplifies a novel approach to analyzing the dynamics of mathematical thinking and learning processes that can account for continuity and iterative changes in understanding and strategic use.

Antonio Lieto: How ontological models can be useful for analyzing conceptual change: a case study.

In this talk I will describe how the ontological models could be an useful, computational, instrument for analyzing the changes needed for supporting an effective conceptual change process. In the first part of the talk I will present the basics of the modeling principles in formal ontologies, then a simple case study supporting the proposed approach will be presented.

Stellan Ohlsson: The Role of Cognitive Utility in Deep Learning

University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC)

In logic and philosophy, the purpose of inquiry is normative. Logic seeks to formalize valid inferences, and the various branches of philosophy seek the right analyses of, for example, meaning, reference, and truth. These traditions have strongly influenced the cognitive sciences. Accounts of cognitive processing in psychology and education often ask why people do not conform to, or instantiate, the normative accounts: Why do people draw logically invalid inferences? Why do they not abandon their misconceptions when presented with falsifying evidence? In this talk, I will attempt a radical departure from the normative idea that change in concepts and beliefs is driven by evidence regarding their truth. Reaching back to the pragmaticism of William James and Charles Sanders Peirce, I will develop the position that a person¹s knowledge system is organized by cognitive utility, i.e., the success obtained with the help of a given conception. This stance dissolves the main paradox of conceptual change research, but raises other, equally perplexing questions.

Tamer Amin: An Account of Concepts for Studying Conceptual Change in Science Education

The literature on conceptual change in science education has yet to settle on a consensus view of what concepts actually are. Two distinct perspectives are often contrasted in the literature: the coherence view, often presented as characterizing concepts in terms of their relationship to others (e.g. theory theory); and the knowledge-in-pieces view often presented as characterizing the internal structure of concepts (e.g. coordination class theory). The debates between adherents of these perspectives reveal a tension in the characterization of concepts: between characterizing concepts as participants in beliefs and concepts as constituted by beliefs. In this presentation, I suggest that a recent account of concepts presented by Carey (2009) helps resolve this tension by treating concepts per se at unitary language-like symbols and the content of concepts as constited by networks of beliefs grounded in iconic representations. I suggest that adopting this view of concepts draws attention to an implicit consensus regarding characterizations of concepts among researchers working within competing perspectives. I discuss other advantages of adopting this view of concepts.