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Mike Dacey (Bates): “Gathering Evidence About Animal Minds”
4 November 2021, 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
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Abstract: Discussions of animal minds often assume and require that individual behavioral experiments do too much evidential work. I argue that this is because of the structure in comparative psychology that arises from the combination of Morgan’s Canon, Null Hypothesis Significance Testing, and popular strategies for choosing experiments. In practical effect, this structure grants one model the status of default. An experiment must override this default to count as evidence at all. Despite recent criticisms of Morgan’s Canon, this structure persists in part due to a lack of alternatives. Once we recognize that individual experiments can only provide weak evidence for any particular model, we need ways to gather and organize evidence from individual experiments so that it can bear collectively on model evaluations. I present and describe four possible organizing principles. These are not mutually exclusive, and each may provide different kinds of value in different contexts.
Mike Dacey is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Bates College. His main research interests include philosophy of psychology, philosophy of science, history of science, and moral psychology.