Chrisptopher David Viger
Chris Viger began his academic training in mathematics and logic and taught mathematics for three years at the Lester B. Pearson United World College of the Pacific. He began retraining in philosophy at Carleton University, supervised by Andrew Brook, and then completed his PhD at McGill University, supervised by Paul Pietroski. After graduating, Chris was a postdoctoral fellow at Tufts University working with Daniel Dennett, a visiting professor at Dalhousie University, a SSHRC postdoctoral fellow, and a visiting fellow at the CUNY Graduate Center and Rutgers Center for Cognitive Science, before joining the faculty at Western. In 2008, he was awarded the Marilyn Robinson Teaching Award for pre-tenured faculty at Western and is currently the assistant department chair and the undergraduate chair (2010-14) and the Rotman Faculty Fellow in Philosophy and Neuroscience (2012-14). He works in philosophy of mind, psychology, and cognitive science, with his research focused on the relation between language and thought.
My research is focused on the relation between language and thought, developing alternatives to the language of thought hypothesis (LOT). Influenced by recent work in cognitive neuroscience, I have developed an understanding of conceptual structure as the interface between specialized processing modules. For example, perceptual systems, memory, knowledge structures, emotions, and behaviours must interact in very precise ways in recognizing and responding to our environment. In contrast to LOT, I argue that our innate conceptual structures do not compose in the way linguistic entities do. Compositionality is a feature of only our natural language, so the compositionality of thought is parasitic on the compositionality of language. Concepts compose via the natural language terms that express them. Systematic thought in non-linguistic creatures is explained by binding mechanisms. Since natural language terms are essentially the vehicles of propositional thought, I call my view the acquired language of thought hypothesis (ALOT).
A newer research interest involves looking at neural connectivity to explain phenomena such as implicit bias, dual process theory, and the lack of transfer between cognitive tasks and the failure of brain training. One long-term goal of this research is to improve the teaching of critical thinking.
Context, Compositionality and Semantic Values: Essays in Honour of Ernie Lepore. Studies in Linguistics and Philosophy (85). Springer, 2009 (co-edited with R. Stainton).
New Essays in the Philosophy of Language and Mind. Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Supplementary Volume. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2004 (co-edited with M. Ezcurdia and R. Stainton).
“Presentations and Symbols: What Cognition Requires of Representationalism,” in Compositionality, Concepts and Representations II: New Problems in Cognitive Science. Protosociology 22, 2006: 40-59.
“Learning to Think: A Response to the Language of Thought Argument for Innateness,” Mind and Language, 20(3), 2005: 313-325.
“St. Anselm’s Ontological Argument Succumbs to Russell’s Paradox,” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 52, 2002: 123-128.
“Locking on to the Language of Thought,” Philosophical Psychology, 14(2), 2001: 203-215.
“Critical Notice of Jerry Fodor’s Concepts: Where Cognitive Science Went Wrong,” Synthese, 123(1), 2000: 131-151 (co-authored with R. Stainton).
“Bell-type Equalities for SQUIDs on the Assumptions of Macroscopic Realism and Non-Invasive Measurability,” Physics Letters A, 210, 1996: 5-10 (second author with G. Jaeger and S. Sarkar).
“‘God Does not Play Dice with the Universe’…But He May Play Cards: A Model of Time,” Carleton Student Journal of Philosophy, 15(4), 1994: 13-19.
“The Rank Theorem for Locally Lipschitz Continuous Functions,” Canadian Mathematical Bulletin, 31, 1988: 217-226 (third author with G. J. Butler and J. G. Timourian).
Chapters in Edited Books and Encyclopedias:
“The Acquired Language of Thought Hypothesis: A Theory of Symbol Grounding,” in Symbol Grounding, edited by Tony Belpaeme, Stephen J. Cowley, and Karl F. MacDorman, John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2009: 127-144.
“The Binding Problem: Achilles in the 21st Century,” in The Achilles of Rational Psychology, edited by Thomas Lennon and Robert Stainton, Springer, 2008 (first author with R. Bluhm, S. Mosurinjohn).
“Is the Aim of Perception to Provide Accurate Representations? A case for the ‘no’ side,” in Contemporary Debates in Cognitive Science, edited by R. Stainton, Blackwell, chapter 16, 2006: 275-288.
“Dennett, Daniel Clement III (1942-),” in J. Shook (ed.) Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers. Bristol: Thoemmes Press, 2005: 615-622.
“Fodor, Jerry Alan (1935-),” in J. Shook (ed.) Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers. Bristol: Thoemmes Press, 2005: 817-824.
“Introduction,” in New Essays in the Philosophy of Language and Mind: Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Supplementary Volume, edited by M. Ezcurdia, R. Stainton, and C. Viger, Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2004: vii-xiii (co-authored with M. Ezcurdia and R. Stainton).
“Where do Dennett’s Stances Stand? Explaining our Kind of Mind,” in Dennett’s Philosophy: A Comprehensive Assessment, edited by D. Ross, A. Brook, and D. Thompson, M.I.T. Press, chapter 7, 2000: 131-145.
“Review of Cognition and the Brain edited by A. Brook and K. Akins,” Philosophy in Review, XXVIII(3): 173-176, June 2008.
“Review of Evolution and the Human Mind edited by P. Carruthers and A. Chamberlain,” Philosophy in Review, 21(5), 2001: 328-330.
“Review of Thinking Matter by J. Catalano,” Philosophy in Review, 21(2), 2001: 100-102.
“A Model of Concept Acquisition,” present at the meetings of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology, Brown University, June 2013 and the the meetings of the Canadian Philosophical Association, May 2012.
“The role of Cognitive Science in Critical Thinking: The Case of concept Acquisition,” presented at the Le rôle de la Pensée Critique dans le Développement des systèmes éducatifs, (le cas de l’Afrique du Nord), November 2011).
“Maybe Concepts Don’t Compose: LOT or ALOT?” presented at the meetings of the Canadian Philosophical Association, June 2010.
“The Acquired Language of Thought Hypothesis: A Theory of External Symbol Grounding,” presented at External Symbol Grounding 2006, Plymouth, July 2006.
“Lexical Construction of Central Cognition: The Acquired Language of Thought Hypothesis,” presented at the meetings of the Canadian Philosophical Association, May 2006.
“The Acquired Language of Thought Hypothesis,” invited keynote address for The University of Waterloo Graduate Student Conference, March 2006.
“Can I Be Resurrected? A Materialist Theory of Survival,” presented at the meetings of the Canadian Philosophical Association, May 2005.
“Lexically Constructing Central Cognition,” presented at the Annual Graduate Conference in Philosophy of Mind, Language, and Cognitive Science at the University of Western Ontario as an invited speaker, May 2004.
“Learning to Think: A response to the Language of Thought Argument,” presented at the meetings of the Canadian Philosophical Association, May 2002.
“St. Anselm’s Ontological Argument Succumbs to Russell’s Paradox,” presented at the Second Annual St. Anselm conference, April 2002.
“Locking on to the Language of Thought,” presented at the meetings of the Canadian Philosophical Association, May 2001.
“Reflections on Fodor’s Concepts,” presented by R. Stainton at XIV Congreso Interamericano de Filosofía, August 1999 (co-authored with R. Stainton).
“Where do Dennett’s Stances Stand? Explaining our Kind of Mind,” presented at the meetings of the Canadian Philosophical Association, June 1999. Also presented as an invited speaker at Dennett’s Philosophy: A Comprehensive Assessment, Memorial University, Newfoundland, November 1998.
Works in Progress:
“The Philosopher’s Dilemma: Revisiting Newcomb’s Paradox”
“Dual Process Theory and Neural Connectivity”