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Departmental Colloquium: Decomposing modal thought

Jonathan S. Phillips
Wednesday, January 27, 2021, 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm

There has been a growing interest in understanding when and where the capacity for modal cognition arises in ontogeny and phylogeny. And for good reason: representations of non-actual possibilities play an essential role through high-level cognition, from planning for the future, to causal reasoning, to linguistic communication, and so on. Despite the growing interest in this question, substantive disagreement remains on when and where modal cognition is to be found. Drawing on formal work on modality, I'll offer a simple account of the core cognitive capacities that underwrite all forms of modal cognition and discuss how more complex forms of modal thought arise over the course of development. Along the way, I'll contextualize this picture of modal cognition by comparing it to recent proposals by Téglás, Leahy & Carey, and Redshaw & Suddendorf.