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Digital Mind

The Foundations of Mind Group at Johns Hopkins connects faculty, post-docs, and graduate students across the university who are interested in philosophical, theoretical, and methodological questions concerning the mind-brain. We collaborate, co-teach, co-advise, organize reading groups, and sponsor talks and other events. It's one of the most vibrant and active interdisciplinary groups of its kind: come join us!

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  • Can we hear silence? Read about Rui Zhe Goh, Ian Phillips, and Chaz Firestone's work in the New York Times here.

  • Congratulations to FoM Postdoc Simon Brown who is joining the Foundations of Animal Sentience Project at LSE!

  • We will be hosting an online workshop on the Unity of Consciousness in Split Brain Patients and Other Animals: see details below.

  • Congratulations to FoM Postdoc Jorge Morales, who from January 2022 will be joining Northeastern University as assistant professor in Psychology & Philosophy! The Morales Lab will study the subjective character of the mind with an interdisciplinary approach using tools from psychology, neuroscience and philosophy.

  • Congratulations to Ian Phillips on being awarded the 2021 Lebowitz Prize for Philosophical Achievement and Contribution, along with NYU's Ned Block!  Click here for more info.

  • Congratulations to Chaz Firestone for being awarded Rising Star status by the Association for Psychological Science! More info here.

  • A warm welcome to Simon Brown, who joins us as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Foundations of Mind!

  • A warm welcome to Ian Tully, who joins us as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Philosophy and Mental Disorder!

  • The Philosophy Department is hiring (open rank, open area). Click here for more info.

  • Welcome new Bloomberg Distinguished Professors Hanna Pickard and Ian Phillips!

  • Congratulations to Austin Baker, Jorge Morales, and Chaz Firestone whose "'You're my doctor?': Social stereotypes impair recognition of incidental visual features" won the 2019 SPP Poster Prize!

  • Congratulations to Steven Gross on becoming President-Elect of the SPP!

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9:  Welcoming remarks
9.15:  Peter Achinstein, Philosophy.  “Does Simplicity Track Truth?  Isaac Newton and Gravity.”
10.30:  Jenann Ismael, Philosophy, “Life, Death, and Complexity.”
11.45-1: Lunch
1.15: Robert Rynasiewicz, Philosophy.  “Einstein, Simplicity, and the Light Postulate.”
2.30: Brice Menard, Physics.  “Observations, Patterns, Principles.”
3.45: Sean Carroll, Physics and Philosophy.  “Connecting the Microworld to the Macroworld.”
4.45: Panel Discussion with speakers and audience

Saturday 17 September 2022 || 09:00-17:00 EDT (GMT-4) || Glass Pavilion, Levering Hall, Homewood Campus.


06/29/2022 09:00-12:00 EDT


Elizabeth Schechter,

Department of Philosophy and the Cognitive Science Program at Indiana University, Bloomington/Department of Philosophy, University of Maryland College Park

Peter Godfrey-Smith,

School of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Sydney

Giorgio Vallortigara, 
Center for Mind/Brain Sciences - CIMeC, University of Trento

Wednesday 29 June 2022 || 09:00-12:00 EDT (GMT-4) || Zoom Link || Meeting ID: 958 6227 6152.

Please contact Simon Brown ( with any queries.



All sessions will be recorded; access to the recordings can be requested by emailing the conference organizers.  All times EDT (Eastern US). 

Thursday April 22nd

13:00-14:00 Chris Krupenye - Social Knowledge and Decision-Making in Chimpanzees and Bonobos

Like humans, other apes inhabit demanding social worlds, structured by status hierarchies and nuanced relationships. How do our closest relatives, chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and bonobos (Pan paniscus), navigate the complexities of this environment? In this talk, I will examine several varieties of social information that apes track in order to make adaptive social decisions. These investigations shed light on what it means to be ape and what it means to be human.

14:00-15:00 Hayley Clatterbuck - Language and Abstract Concepts

Language and abstract concepts are two of the most commonly cited candidates for uniquely human capacities that might explain many of the cognitive differences between humans and non-human animals. However, difficult questions about the relationship between the two abilities remain. First, there's a chicken-and-egg problem; on the one hand, language seems to assist in abstract concept learning, but on the other, language seems to require abstract concepts. Second, it's unclear whether either of these mark genuine discontinuities with other animals. I will outline an approach to answering these questions, drawing on insights from machine learning and animal psychology.

15:00-16:00 Break: details of event for informal discussion to be shared during the workshop.

16:00-17:00 Colin Allen - Can there be a Cognitive Paleoethology? The Case of Working Memory

In this talk I will present work in progress attempting to extend a framework for paleoethology offered by Hone & Faulke (2014) to inferences in a field I denote as "cognitive paleoethology". I will attempt to apply the framework to the case of estimating working memory of early hominins at the Plio-Pleistocene boundary two or so million years ago. The case is interesting not just because involves making inferences about our animal ancestors at a time they had brains not much bigger than modern chimpanzees, but also because it raises numerous questions about the choice of constructs to deploy in a taxonomy of cognition, the epistemic value of comparing extinct species to extant species, and the strength of holistic inferences in a situation where there are large gaps in the evidence and each piece of evidence taken alone has multiple alternative explanations.

Friday April 23rd

13:00-14:00 Stephen Ferrigno - The Evolutionary, Developmental, and Cultural Origins of Human Cognitive Capacities

Humans are the only species that build skyscrapers, calculate the mass of subatomic particles, and create masterworks of art. Understanding how we build these capacities has been at the core of debates in cognitive science and requires understanding their evolutionary, developmental, and cultural origins. The goal of my research program is to determine what aspects of our cognition are unique to humans or not, how human capacities develop, and how they interact with our human culture. I focus on four domains in which humans have remarkable abilities: numerical cognition, representation of recursive structure, metacognition, and logical reasoning. Throughout these case studies, I show that many of the foundations for these capacities are present in non-human animals and are likely evolutionarily ancient. However, both human development and our cultural environment continue to shape these primitive foundations into our uniquely human abilities

14:00-15:00 Sam Clarke - The Number Sense Represents Numbers

On a now orthodox view, humans and many other animals possess a “number sense,” or approximate number system (ANS), that represents number. Recently, this orthodox view has been subject to numerous critiques that question whether the ANS genuinely represents number. We distinguish three lines of critique—the arguments from congruency, confounds, and imprecision—and show that none succeed. We then provide positive reasons to think that the ANS genuinely represents numbers, of a banal sort, familiar from the math class, and not just non-numerical confounds or exotic substitutes for number, such as “numerosities” or “quanticals,” as critics propose. Strange as it is to have to say: the number sense represents number. 

15:00-16:00 Break: details of event for informal discussion to be shared during the workshop.

16:00-17:00 Alexandra Rosati - The primate origins of human thought

Many domains of human thought—from social cognition to logical reasoning—may draw on language. Given that, how do non-linguistic animals think? Comparative research examining the minds of our closest primate relatives is uniquely positioned to provide new insights into the origins of human cognition. I will examine evidence from different primate species to try to understand how other animals see the world, as well as why their minds work the way that they do.

More Information on the Contributors

Colin Allen  - History and Philosophy of Science, Pittsburgh -

Sam Clarke - Philosophy & Centre for Vision Research, York University, Toronto -

Hayley Clatterbuck - Philosophy, UW Madison -

Stephen Ferrigno - Lab for Developmental Studies, Harvard -

Chris Krupenye - Psychology, Durham / Psychological & Brain Sciences, Johns Hopkins -

Alexandra Rosati - Psychology & Anthropology, University of Michigan -

More Information on the Organizers

Simon Brown - Philosophy, Johns Hopkins University - 

Jorge Morales - Psychological and Brain Sciences, Johns Hopkins University - 

For more events, check out the links below.

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c/o Steven Gross
Department of Philosophy
Johns Hopkins University
Baltimore, MD 21218, USA

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