Talk at the Philosophers Rally

Posted on May 15, 2007


Gave the talk on the relationship between superstition and rationality at the Philosophers Rally in Warsaw last week-end. I have given it so many times by now that I have taken to referring to it as the trailer to my post-doc. Apart from the other occasions I have mentioned, I have also presented it at a small conference in Granada, Spain, where I went at the start of May. I ended up not going to Groningen where I was supposed to present it also. At this point I only plan to present it once more, at the European Society of Philosophy and Psychology meeting in Geneva.

I am in two minds about presenting a talk several times. Obviously, it is not like publishing the same paper (especially under several different titles) but it is not something to be overdone, I feel. I’ve generally avoided doing that but this talk contains the main ideas I am starting the post-doc with and I wanted to get lots of input because of that, as well as wanting to give people a clear idea of what I’m doing. The audiences I presented the talk to have varied quite widely. Some have been mostly philosophical, others psychologists or non-academics. At the same time, responses have differed across the various countries I presented the talk at. One thing I found common was that everyone has some ideas as to why people are superstitious but that these opinions are generally not founded upon any empirical results. Mind you, at this stage, the idea I’m working with that superstitions are by-products of bounded cognitive abilities is also not very well empirically backed up and, to add to it, rather vague. In many talks I had the question of whether I could give a specific example of a cognitive illusion that might be tied to a specific kind of superstition – and could not give a satisfactory answer.

It is now only a couple of weeks till I get to go to Vienna to start the post-doc. Just about time for me to sit down and try to put some more bones on the basic ideas: to come up with some plausible examples and to think about the empirical basis for my claims.