Rob Rupert: Individuals as Group Minds, Groups of Minds as Individuals

Professor Rob Rupert (University of Colorado and University of Edinburgh) speaks at “Exploring the Undermind”, a one-day research event at the University of Edinburgh, 15th July 2016.

Abstract: In this talk, I address the question, “What is required for a group of individual humans to be the collective subject of a single cognitive state?” The talk consists of three primary sections. First, I argue in favor of a systems-based view of cognition, that the boundary between the relatively persisting and integrated architecture and what lies beyond that system offers the most plausible grounds for the distinction between what is genuinely cognitive and what is not. Second, I argue that we’re justified in thinking that two processes (and thus their component states) that appear dissimilar are of the same natural kind if and only if successful models of the two processes exhibit the right sort of structural similarity. These two conclusions introduce both a possibility (viz. that groups with decentralized control systems are not thereby disqualified as subjects of cognitive states) and a daunting challenge (because models of actual-world group processes don’t exhibit a high enough degree of similarity to models of cognition in humans). In the third portion of the talk, I argue that this tension might be resolved – the possibility realized and the challenge defeated – but only if we can identify models of the right sort, which I explore briefly.