Lectures to Ponder Philosophy of Cognition
Professors Will Address Mental Disability and Enhancement as Part of Series
Feb. 11, 2011
The definition of cognitive encompasses the mental processes of perception, memory, judgment and reasoning, all of which are tied to accepted notions of what it means to be human. But what about those individuals lacking cognitive abilities, or even those opting to enhance the ones they have? The University of Texas at Dallas will host two lectures in February to explore these issues.
Professor Paul Churchland will address “You Are Already Cognitively Enhanced, But There Might Be Room for More” at 12:30 p.m. on Feb. 11, in room JO 4.614 of the Jonsson Building at UT Dallas.
Churchland is a philosopher noted for his studies in neurophilosophy and the philosophy of mind. He is a professor emeritus of the University of California, San Diego, where he held the Valtz Chair of Philosophy and was a member of the Institute for Neural Computation faculty.
The flip side of Churchland’s discussion of cognitive enhancement is cognitive disability, deviations from what are generally considered “normal” mental functioning. The realities of cognitive disability pose a significant challenge to certain key ideas philosophers have held, including the idea that rational cognitive capacities are the mark of humanity. Feminist, philosopher and professor Eva Feder Kittay will delve into these questions in her lecture, “Lives Not Worthy of Life: The Nazi T-4 Project, Racism and Cognitive Disability,” at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 16, in Davidson Auditorium in the School of Management at UT Dallas.
Kittay is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Stony Brook University/SUNY. Among her most recent major publications are “On the Margins of Moral Personhood,” “Blackwell Studies in Feminist Philosophy,” and “Cognitive Disability and Its Challenge to Moral Philosophy.” She is currently at work on a new book, A Quest for A Humbler Philosophy: Thinking about Disabled Minds and Things that Matter, which explores challenges to philosophy and ethics posed by cognitive disabilities.
“These are going to be two wonderful talks by two very important speakers,” said Dr. Matthew J. Brown, director of the Center for Values in Medicine, Science and Technology. “What they share is the project of making philosophy more sensitive to the realities of our cognitive landscape.
“Paul Churchland, along with his partner Patricia Churchland, has done path-breaking work introducing cutting-edge neuroscience into our philosophical conception of ourselves. Neuroscience historically has crucially depended on investigating the disabled brain – disabled both by trauma and by genetic conditions – to investigate the workings of the supposedly ‘normal’ brain. Eva Feder Kittay's work has focused on the challenges presented by cognitive disability for moral and political philosophy.”
Both events are part of UT Dallas’ “Incite Your Curiosity: Exploring Human Enhancement” lectures, presented by the Center for Values in Medicine, Science and Technology. Churchland’s lecture is co-sponsored by UT Dallas’ School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. The lectures are free and open to the public. For more information, visit values.utdallas.edu.