Logic & Philosophy of Science Colloquium


Susan Carey
  Harvard University

"The Origin of Concepts--Natural Number"


I will argue that cognitive science now has the tools to address the age-old problem of accounting for the human conceptual repertoire.  Such an account includes both descriptive and explanatory components.  Descriptively, we must specifying the initial representational repertoire, conceptual system 1, specify the repertoire at a later point in development, conceptual system 2, and characterize the developmental difference.  Explanatorily, we must characterize the learning mechanism that underlies the change.  I illustrate by offering an account of the human capacity to represent natural number.  I provide evidence for three innate and evolutionarily ancient representational systems with numerical content, showing how each falls short of having the capacity to represent positive integers.  I characterize the first representational system young children (3-year-olds) create that expresses at least a finite subset of the positive integers.  And I characterize the bootstrapping process that underlies the child's achievement.  I will also touch on new data bearing on the construction, in history, of the integers.

Friday, October 6, 2006
SST 777
3 pm

Refreshments will be served