KEYNOTE: Longer, Smaller, Faster Stronger: on skills and intelligence

Ellen Fridland (King’s College London)

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One prominent feature of skill is the way in which it is acquired. Skills are learned through practice and not through deliberation, reflection, or memorization alone. Philosophers have appreciated this fact about skill for ages[1] but despite a general recognition, no philosophical account of the exact connection between skill and practice has ever been forwarded. To make clear what I mean, compare the following questions: one might think that when we ask about the connection between practice and skill, we are asking a question about final causes. As such, when we ask, “what is learned through practice?” the obvious answer would be: “skill”!  However, we might take the question to be of a different sort, to be a question about formal causes and, thus, to be something like the following: “how does practice change our behaviors such that they go from being awkward, unskilled actions to elegant, skilled performances?” If that’s the question we are asking then what we want to know is how practice changes or impacts our behaviors. That is, we don’t want to know what practice is for but we want to know what practice does.[2] It is this latter question that I will explore in this paper. Importantly, once the answer to that question becomes clear, we will be in a position to see why skilled performances, though automatic in many ways, cannot be thought of as mindless, brute or unintelligent. Rather, skilled actions are cognitive and minded almost all the way down.

This paper will proceed in four sections: in the first section Continue reading KEYNOTE: Longer, Smaller, Faster Stronger: on skills and intelligence

Do we reflect while performing skillful actions? Automaticity, control, and the perils of distraction

Juan Pablo Bermúdez
 (Universidad Externado de Colombia)

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Abstract: Many human actions require skill, from our everyday commuting to the gold medalist’s world-class performance. What is the proper explanation of skill-involving action? There are two main answers: anti-intellectualism holds that skillful action is produced by automatic coping processes without the involvement of higher-order mental processes; intellectualism claims that even bodily skillful actions require the involvement of intention-directed processes. I examine the evidence for three psychological phenomena recently held to support anti-intellectualism—choking under pressure, expertise-induced amnesia, and expert confabulation—, and argue that, while the evidence contradicts ‘Anscombean’ kinds of intellectualism, it also supports another intellectualist view, namely that the executive, top-down control of attention is a necessary component of any skilled action. Continue reading Do we reflect while performing skillful actions? Automaticity, control, and the perils of distraction

Guidance of Visual Attention

Denis Buehler (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México)

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Abstract: I offer a novel way of addressing Harry Frankfurt’s ‘problem of action’: From reflection on empirical psychological research, I develop an empirical explication of the notion guidance by the individual. I speculate on how this explication may contribute to understanding the nature of agency. [1]

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Knowledge-How, Abilities, and Questions

Joshua Habgood-Coote
 (Universities of St. Andrews and Stirling)

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Knowing-how seems to be a distinctively practical kind of knowledge. Yet according to the standard semantics for knowledge-how ascriptions, to know how to do something is to stand is some relation to a set of propositions about how to do it. Intellectualists about knowledge-how take their lead from the semantics of knowledge-how ascriptions and claim that knowledge-how is a species of propositional knowledge. As a consequence they have trouble explaining the practical properties of knowledge-how, usually appealing to the somewhat obscure notion of a practical way of thinking.[1] By contrast, Anti-Intellectualists give priority to the practical properties of knowledge-how, claiming that knowledge-how to V[2] is a kind of ability or capacity to V.[3] Since abilities are generally relations to activities or action-types rather than propositions, they have the parallel problem of making their view compatible with linguistic theory.

In this paper, I explore a novel compromise Continue reading Knowledge-How, Abilities, and Questions

Attention as Selection for Action: A Challenge

 Aaron Henry (University of Toronto)

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Abstract: This paper raises a challenge for Wayne Wu’s account of attention as selection for action. According to Wu’s account, action poses a selection problem which only attention can solve. The need to solve this problem (and hence to attend) is what, according to Wu, distinguishes action from reflex. My challenge to Wu begins with a dilemma concerning the agential status of attention. Either attention is an action or a reflex. If attention is an action, then a vicious regress results. If it is a reflex, then there is no role for the agent to play in action. In either case, action is revealed to be impossible. While Wu’s account can be developed in a way that avoids this dilemma, the view that results has trouble explaining how attending can itself be an action and also conflicts with a promising view of the neural basis of visual attention called ‘biased competition’ theory.

Continue reading Attention as Selection for Action: A Challenge