Unobserved Structure
Philosophy of psychology LPS/Phil 243
Tuesdays, 11:00 - 1:50, SST 777
Spring, 2005
non-artist's rendition of cognitive science
Click on the picture to go to the readings (password required)


  Course Password:  _________________________________________  (You will need this to access the readings.)

Basic Information
Course Website:
Instructor:  Kent Johnson
Office Hours:  Wed, 11:00—12:00 (and by appointment)
Office Location:  SST 755

Introduction. This course revolves around the general theme of positing unobserved structure in scientific models of (complex) empirical phenomena. Models of this sort typically structure and organize the available empirical data. Sometimes, but not always, this structuring allows us to infer the presence of unobserved structure present in the individual entities under study. For example, a statistical model might support an interpretation regarding the internal structure of the individuals sampled in one case, while in another case the very same mathematical model generated from a numerically identical data set might support an interpretation only concerning the aggregate behavior of the sample or the population it was drawn from. My own empirical interests and background on this theme concern issues in cognitive psychology and linguistics. Depending on the interests and background of the other participants, we may also explore some similar issues in other empirical areas such as biology and chemistry.

Some general issues, most or all of which will be explored are (in no particular order): idealization, “levels” of analysis, multiple realizability and laws in the special sciences, the performance/competence distinction, linguistic methodology, statistical data analysis, statistical modeling with latent variables, cognitive architecture.

 Readings will include material by: Marr, Chomsky, Peacocke, Fodor, Matthews, Elman, Bollen, Dunteman, Liu, Putnam, Forster.




Special Sciences

Functional Theories


Data Analysis

Idealization in science


Measurement analogies in psychological and linguistic theorizing



Back to top