Computational Thought Experiments for a More Rigorous Philosophy and Science of the Mind

In L. K. Samuelson, S. L. Frank, M. Toneva, A. Mackey & E. Hazeltine (eds.), Proceedings of the 46th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. CC BY. pp. 601-609 (2024)
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We offer philosophical motivations for a method we call Virtual World Cognitive Science (VW CogSci), in which researchers use virtual embodied agents that are embedded in virtual worlds to explore questions in the field of Cognitive Science. We focus on questions about mental and linguistic representation and the ways that such computational modeling can add rigor to philosophical thought experiments, as well as the terminology used in the scientific study of such representations. We find that this method forces researchers to take a god’s-eye view when describing dynamical relationships between entities in minds and entities in an environment in a way that eliminates the need for problematic talk of belief and concept types, such as the belief that cats are silly, and the concept CAT, while preserving belief and concept tokens in individual cognizers’ minds. We conclude with some further key advantages of VW CogSci for the scientific study of mental and linguistic representation and for Cognitive Science more broadly.

Author Profiles

James Pustejovsky
Brandeis University
Iris Oved
University of Arizona


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