- Philosophy of Cognitive Science
- Philosophy of Mind
Guillaume Beaulac is a philosopher and aspiring cognitive scientist working at the intersections of philosophy of cognitive science and epistemology (‘philosophy of knowledge’). Lately, he has mostly been working on cognitive architecture (how and why the mind works the way it does), on computation (how the mind processes information), on language (how it evolved and what role it plays in cognition) and on concepts (how we categorize and represent objects in the world). Guillaume is also working on embodied approaches to cognitive science (how the brain interacts with the body and with the world) and their relations with critical thinking and cognitive niches (how we can adapt and modify our environments to help us think) in ongoing research projects with Professor Pierre Poirier (Director, Cognitive Science Institute, UQAM) and Professor Serge Robert (Professor, Department of Philosophy, UQAM). Guillaume spent the Summer 2011 semester working at the Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Science with Professor Stevan Harnad. He holds a Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council and he is part of the organizing committees of many events in philosophy and in cognitive science including PhilMiLCog and Cognitio.
I completed my B.A. and M.A. at Université du Québec à Montréal where I held fellowships from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council, from the Fonds de Recherche sur la Société et la Culture du Québec and from the Cognitive Science Institute. I was a member of UQAM’s Cognitive Science Institute, of the Laboratoire d’Analyse Cognitive de l’Information (LANCI) and of the Interuniversity Research Center on Science and Technology (CIRST). My M.A. thesis is a critique of current dual-process theories as defended by, among others, Keith Stanovich (Toronto), Jonathan St. B. T. Evans (Plymouth), Peter Carruthers (Maryland) and Matthew D. Lieberman (UCLA). Following this critique, I suggest a framework that could help resolve at least some of the problems I identified with these diverse and very interesting theories about the architecture of mind. You can access the thesis here. Two articles building on parts of this master’s thesis are currently in preparation. In the first one, I sketch the landscape of the current theories and outline their main difficulties and problems. In the second one, I sketch my solution to many of these issues by suggesting that we should map processes in a multidimensional conceptual space. I strongly believe that dual-process theories can have an important impact on how we view and understand the human mind and how it works. Ronald de Sousa makes a very good presentation of this idea of a ‘two track mind’ here.
I am, more generally, interested in cognitive science, in philosophy of mind, in philosophy of education and in epistemology. More precisely, I am interested in the relations between cognitive science and epistemology and how the former can inform and maybe modify the latter. I also have interests in the question of the origins of language and how language modifies and enhances cognition or, modestly put, some of its aspects.
I started my PhD at Western in 2010 and I am involved in many of its research groups including the Rotman Institute of Philosophy, the Language and Cognition Research Group and the Philosophy and Psychology Research Group. My plan is to continue my research on how we can use the dual-process theories framework to understand some (very) old debates from this new and appealing perspective, including issues in the computational theories of mind, in philosophy of language, in the debates on the origins of language, and in the philosophy and psychology of concepts. I also think some ideas coming from dual-process theories can be applied in order to come up with better theories of education and learning. In a forthcoming article I wrote with Professor Serge Robert, I suggest a framework in which we could use these theories to teach critical thinking and logic in a more efficient manner.
Beaulac G, Robert S. “Théories à processus duaux et theories de l’éducation : Le cas de l’enseignement de la pensée critique et de la logique (Dual-Process Theories and Theories of Education: Teaching Critical Thinking and Logic)”. Les ateliers de l’éthique 2011(forthcoming).
Poirier P, Beaulac G. “Le véritable retour des définitions (The True Return of Definitions” 2011; 50: 153-164.
Beaulac G. “Wikipedia et la reconnaissance de la spécialisation (Wikipedia and the Recognition of Specialization)”. Cahiers de l’Institut des Sciences Cognitives 2010; 1: 59-63.
Beaulac G, Poirier P. Va Savoir! De la connaissance en général (Pascal Engel, Hermann, 2007). Dialogue 2009; 48: 217-221.
Beaulac G. A Two Speed Mind? For a Heuristic Interpretation of Dual-Process Theories (L’esprit à deux vitesses ? Pour une interprétation heuristique des théories à processus duaux). Université du Québec à Montréal 2010. Available online: http://www.archipel.uqam.ca/3774/
Beaulac G. Pensée critique et biais (Critical Thinking and Biases). CIRST Graduate Colloquium, April 28th 2010, UQAM.
Beaulac G., Di Croce M. Réflexions sur l’éducation à partir de la pensée de Hannah Arendt (Thinking About Education with Hannah Arendt’s Ideas). Workshops Series in Educational Philosophy and Theory, October 16th 2008, Université de Montréal.
Beaulac G., Di Croce M. “Hannah Arendt et l’éducation” (Hannah Arendt and Education). Colloquium of the Nouvelle Alliance pour la Philosophie au Collégial (NAPAC; New Alliance for Philosophy in Cegeps), June 4th 2008, Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf.
Beaulac G. Au-delà des theories à processus duaux? (Beyond Dual-Process Theories?). Symposium Philosophical Issues and Implications of Dual-Process Theories / Problèmes et conséquences philosophiques des théories à processus duaux, Canadian Philosophical Association Annual Congress, May 30th 2011, University of New Brunswick.
Beaulac G, Robert S. Théories de l’éducation et theories à processus duaux (Theories of Education and Dual-process Theories). Canadian Philosophical Association Annual Congress, June 1st 2011, University of New Brunswick.
Beaulac G. A Two Speed Mind? For a Heuristic Interpretation of Dual-Process Theories. Philosophy Graduate Students Association Colloquium Series, January 26 2011, UWO.
Beaulac G. Les théories à processus duel : Systèmes ou types de processus ? (Dual-Process Theories: Systems or types of processes?). Société de Philosophie du Québec Annual Meeting: Esprit et Nature, May 12th 2010, Université de Montréal.
Tremblay-Pepin S, Beaulac G. Experiences and reflections about Le Couac. Making Media Public Conference, May 7th 2010, York University.
Beaulac G. Connaissance modulaire et connaissance réflexive: épistémologie à processus duel (Modular Knowledge and Reflective Knowledge: Dual-Process Epistemology). Graduate Seminar in Epistemology, December 10th 2009, Université de Montréal.
Beaulac G. Pensée critique et biais (Critical Thinking and Biases). Colloquium Taking Stock of Educational Philosophy and Theory in Quebec, November 7th 2009, McGill University.
Beaulac G. Dual-Process Epistemology: Characterizing Knowledge as Modular and Reflective. Canadian Society for Epistemology International Symposium: Concepts of Knowledge, November 6th 2009, Carleton University.
Beaulac G. Impulsivité et frustration : théories de l’esprit à processus duel (Impulsivity and Frustration: Dual-Process Theories). Congress of the Société de Philosophie Analytique (SOPHA; Society for Analytic Philosophy), September 2nd 2009, Université de Genève.
Beaulac G. Memes to Enhance Evolved Cognition and the Reliability of Knowledge. Cognitio. Changing Minds: Cultures and Cognition in Evolution, June 5th 2009, UQAM.
Beaulac G. Structure politique de réseaux épistémiques virtuels : la reconnaissance de la spécialisation offre-t-elle un avantage épistémique? (Political Structure of Virtual Epistemic Networks: Does Recognizing Specialization Offer an Epistemic Advantage?). 77th Colloquium of l’Association Francophone pour le Savoir (ACFAS; Francophone Association for Knowledge), May 15th 2009, Université d’Ottawa.
Beaulac G. L’influence de la structure politique de réseaux épistémiques virtuels sur l’élaboration du contenu des wikipédies (The Influence of Political Structure on Virtual Epistemic Networks for the Elaboration of the Content of Wikis). FODAR Colloquium, March 28th 2009, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières.
Beaulac G, Di Croce M. Réflexions sur l’éducation à partir de la pensée de Hannah Arendt (Thinking About Education with Hannah Arendt’s Ideas). Université Populaire à Montréal (UPAM; Popular University in Montreal). February 14th 2008, UQAM.
Beaulac G. Le concept d’éducation : qu’est-ce qu’être éduqué? (The Concept of Education: What Is It to Be Educated?). UPAM, November 12th 2007, UQAM.
Beaulac G. La division du travail: Ferguson et l’économie participative (Dividing the Workload: Ferguson and Participatory Economics). UPAM, November 12th 2007, UQAM.
Beaulac G. Russell : Éducation et vertus épistémiques (Russell: Education and Epistemic Virtues). La nuit de la philosophie, March 25th 2007, UQAM.
Beaulac G. Structure politique de réseaux épistémiques virtuels : la reconnaissance de la spécialisation offre-t-elle un avantage épistémique? (Political Structure of Epistemic Virtual Networks: Does Recognizing Specialization Offer an Epistemic Advantage?). Colloquium Technologies Cognitives, May 14th 2009, Ottawa University.
Beaulac G. Knowledge’s Kind of Kind: Is it Natural or Conceptual? Minds and Societies Summer School, June 30th and July 4th 2008, UQAM.
Beaulac G. L’approche par vertus en épistémologie (Approaching Epistemology with Virtues. Scientific Day of the Cognitive Science Institute, June 14th 2007, UQAM.
Beaulac G. Commentary on “Competing Research Programs in Evolutionary Psychology” by C. Chalmers. PhilMiLCog 2011, May 15th 2011, UWO.
Beaulac G. Commentary on “Maybe Concepts Don’t Compose. LOT or ALOT?” by C. Viger. Canadian Philosophical Association Annual Congress, June 2nd 2010, Concordia University.
Beaulac G. Commentary on “ ‘Knowledge’ as a Natural Kind Term” by V. Kumar. Canadian Philosophical Association Annual Congress, June 1st 2010, Concordia University.
Beyond Dual-Process Theories? A Multidimensional Space to Map the Architecture of Mind
Role: Primary Investigator
Brief Description: I aim at sketching the landscape of the various dual and other multi-process approaches in cognitive science, ranging from those rejecting any distinction between types of processes (e.g. Carruthers; Kruglanski) to those suggesting very strong distinctions between two (e.g. Evans; Lieberman) – and sometimes more (e.g. Sherman) – types of processes. One of the reasons researchers disagree is that the criteria used are not clear and some of them are controversial. I believe these criticisms are on the right track: what I propose is to analyze each criterion independently in order to map processes in a multidimensional conceptual space. Cognitive processes should be distinguished by their position in this space allowing researchers to consider all of the characteristics and peculiarities attributed to a process. Once this research program is in place, it will become possible to revise the categories we use to ground anew some notions found in the literature.
A Two Speed Mind? Interpreting Dual-Process Theories as a Heuristic (And Using Them As Such)
Role: Primary Investigator
Brief Description: Dual-process theories are very useful and interesting frameworks that provide us with explanations for many cognitive phenomena. For instance, they allow us to interpret and predict many results from psychology of reasoning. Yet, they have important limitations and they cannot explain all of cognition: this is why we need to integrate these theories into a more comprehensive framework (such as the one I try to elaborate; see above). But, even if we have to be careful with it, this distinction remains useful in psychology and in neuroscience: if used as a heuristic model dual-process theories can guide us in understanding many cognitive phenomena. In many contexts, a minimal characterization of dual-process theories can offer new and interesting perspectives.
Dual-Process Epistemology: Characterizing Knowledge as Modular and Reflective
Role: Primary Investigator
Brief Description: Clarke (2004) characterizes knowledge as a set of natural kinds: Knowledge is made possible by the many modules that make up the mind. But, with Clarke’s set of natural kinds, we can only identify ‘Type 1’ knowledge. Evolved modules are, by and large, reliable, but they are liable to biases. These biases, however, are systematic, because the natural heuristics modules use are fixed procedures. It is thus possible to study these processes to determine what those biases are, and when they do occur. Then, we can create tools or new heuristics (i.e., meta-heuristics, Wimsatt 2007), to correct these systematic errors. This possibility suggests there is another type of processes, besides those producing Type 1 knowledge, that should play an important role in any account of knowledge, an idea supported, I claim, by dual-process theories: this is what I identify in this project as Type 2 knowledge.
The True Return of Definitions
Project Members: Guillaume Beaulac, Pierre Poirier
Brief Description: We build on Machery’s heterogeneity hypothesis: ‘concept’ in psychology should be eliminated and replaced by the more precise categories ‘prototypes’, ‘exemplars’ and ‘theories’. If one accepts this framework and looks, in the light of a minimal characterization of dual-process theories, at theories of concepts as definitions, it seems clear that human cognition, especially conscious and deliberate cognition, sometimes uses bodies of information that have all the features of definitions. The distinction between a concept controlled by a community of experts and acquired by verbal instruction, and a concept acquired by automatic processes could also explain differences in the judgment made with some concepts (e.g. tomato as a fruit vs tomato as a vegetable). If definitions, on the one hand, and prototypes, exemplars and theories categorization capacities, on the other, cooperate in this manner, their relationship is not always harmonious, and it is possible that concepts acquired with automatic procedures are in conflict with definitions acquired by verbal means.
Teaching Critical Thinking and Logic: What We Can Learn from Cognitive Science
Project Members: Guillaume Beaulac, Serge Robert
Brief Description: Many theories about the teaching of logic and critical thinking take for granted that theoretical learning, the learning of formal rules for example, and its practical application are sufficient to master the tools taught and to take the habit of using them. However, this way of teaching is not efficient, a conclusion supported by much work in cognitive science. Approaching cognition evolutionarily with dual and other multi-process theories allows for an explanation of these insufficiencies and offers clues on how we could teach critical thinking and logic more efficiently. We want to present and defend this approach and explore these leads in order to make some pedagogical recommendations and lay the foundations of a theoretical framework. We also think some results from the practice of philosophy for children are interesting and relevant: this practice can help children to become better thinkers.
The Construction of Cognitive Algorithms and Niches
Project Members: Guillaume Beaulac, Pierre Poirier
Naturalized Rationality: When Reasoning Improves Reasoning
Project Members: Guillaume Beaulac, Pierre Poirier
Fall 2010, Big Ideas, The University of Western Ontario (Introduction to Philosophy, Tutorial Leader).
Winter 2010, Introduction à la Logique, UQAM (Introduction to Logic, Teaching Assistant).
Fall 2009, Histoire du concept de philosophie, UQAM (Introduction to Philosophy, Grader).
Fall 2009, Introduction à la Philosophie du Langage, UQAM (Introduction to Philosophy of Language, Teaching Assistant).
Fall 2008, Introduction à la Philosophie du Langage, UQAM (Introduction to Philosophy of Language, Teaching Assistant).
Fall 2007, Fondements de l’éducation préscolaire, primaire, secondaire, UQAM (Introduction to Philosophy of Education, Teaching Assistant).
Fall 2006, Fondements de l’éducation préscolaire, primaire, secondaire, UQAM (Introduction to Philosophy of Education, Teaching Assistant).