Amphithéâtre Maurice Halbwachs, Site Marcelin Berthelot
En libre accès, dans la limite des places disponibles


Common forms of functionalism hold that one cannot have any types of propositional attitude without having a whole suite of them. Thus, one couldn’t (e.g.) have beliefs but not have desires, hopes, wishes, and the like. Accordingly, it is generally supposed that all attitudes are on equal footing—that is, they come as a package and none has priority over any other. However, this picture is in tension with a psychofunctional approach to propositional attitudes, which holds that it is an open empirical question as to which attitudes are governed by psychological law and are thus proper objects of study for cognitive science. In particular, belief seems to have a singular cognitive importance among the attitudes. Beliefs are acquired in a ballistic fashion, with people automatically (and often unconsciously) believing the propositions they encounter. Only after acquisition can one attempt to reject the information. After presenting some new data about automatic belief acquisition and fluency, I’ll introduce a picture of why belief has certain phylogenetic, ontogenetic, and causal priority among the attitudes. I’ll then examine the case study of antivaccination attitudes to show how belief can spur on behavior without the need to posit desire or any other propositional attitude.

Eric Mandelbaum

Professor Eric Mandelbaum (Graduate Center and Baruch College, City University of New York) primarily works on questions of attitudes and perception to build broad models of cognitive architecture. He has been constructing a psychofunctional theory of belief, which details the laws of how belief works in cognitive science. The research program specifies how beliefs are acquired (poorly), how they are stored (in a fragmented manner), and how they are changed (in line with a Psychological Immune System for beliefs that are self-defining). Other recent work includes examining the limits of the computational theory of mind, the feasibility of mental uploading, the iconic aspects of language (particularly for slurs), how outliers are discounted in ensemble representations in vision, the logical basis of unconscious thought, and the role of fluency and abstraction in causing people to believe in the meaningfulness of pseudo-profound bullshit. Prior to joining CUNY, Prof. Mandelbaum held positions at the University of Oxford, Yale University, and Harvard University. 


Eric Mandelbaum

City University of New York