Mikio Akagi is Assistant Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science in the Honors College at Texas Christian University. He earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh, and holds a B.A. in Philosophy from Swarthmore College and an MSc from the University of Edinburgh in the Philosophy of Mind, Language, and Embodied Cognition.
Dr. Akagi’s teaching focuses on critical reasoning, so that students learn to think carefully and cogently about abstract topics like the value of science and the nature of disease. His classes are designed for students of all interests, so that liberal arts and professional students acquire a more sophisticated understanding of the sciences, and science students acquire a different perspective on the sciences and their relation to the rest of society.
As a researcher, Dr. Akagi works on topics at the intersection of the philosophy of science and philosophy of language. His current research concerns the development of scientific concepts, especially where scientists disagree about precisely what their concepts mean or how to use them properly. He develops logical resources for describing controversial concepts like cognition and representation, and for understanding the ways that conceptual disagreement contributes to scientific inquiry.
Areas of Expertise (4)
Intersection of science, language, and mind
Maryrose Short Teaching Excellence Award (professional)
Graduate Student Travel Award (professional)
2013 Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology
University of Pittsburgh: PhD, Philosophy
University of Edinburgh: MSc, Philosophy 2009
Specialisation in Mind, Language, and Embodied Cognition
Swarthmore College: BA, Philosophy 2008
with High Honors
- Cultural Studies of Science and Medicine : Editorial Board
- Philosophy of Science Association
- Society for Philosophy of Science in Practice
- American Philosophical Association
- National Collegiate Honors Council
- American Association of University Professors
Rethinking the problem of cognitionSynthese
2018 The present century has seen renewed interest in characterizing cognition, the object of inquiry of the cognitive sciences. In this paper, I describe the problem of cognition—the absence of a positive characterization of cognition despite a felt need for one. It is widely recognized that the problem is motivated by decades of controversy among cognitive scientists over foundational questions, such as whether non-neural parts of the body or environment can realize cognitive processes, or whether plants and microbes have cognitive processes. The dominant strategy for addressing the problem of cognition is to seek a dichotomous criterion that vindicates some set of controversial claims. However, I argue that the problem of cognition is also motivated by ongoing conceptual development in cognitive science, and I describe four benefits that a characterization of cognition could confer. Given these benefits, I recommend an alternative criterion of success, ecumenical extensional adequacy, on which the aim is to describe the variation in expert judgments rather than to correct this variation by taking sides in sectarian disputes. I argue that if we had an ecumenical solution to the problem of cognition, we would have achieved much of what we should want from a " mark of the cognitive " .
The precision of locomotor odometry in humansExperimental Brain Research
2009 Two experiments measured the human ability to reproduce locomotor distances of 4.6–100 m without visual feedback and compared distance production with time production. Subjects were not permitted to count steps. It was found that the precision of human odometry follows Weber’s law that variability is proportional to distance. The coefficients of variation for distance production were much lower than those measured for time production for similar durations. Gait parameters recorded during the task (average step length and step frequency) were found to be even less variable suggesting that step integration could be the basis for non-visual human odometry.
Representation Re-construed: Answering the Job Description Challenge with a Construal-based Notion of Natural RepresentationPhilosophy of Science Association
2018 Many philosophers worry that cognitive scientists apply the concept REPRESENTATION too liberally. For example, William Ramsey argues that scientists often ascribe natural representations according to the “receptor notion,” a causal account with absurd consequences. I rehabilitate the receptor notion by augmenting it with a background condition: that natural representations are ascribed only to systems construed as organisms. This Organism-Receptor account rationalizes our existing conceptual practice, including the fact that scientists in fact reject Ramsey’s absurd consequences. The Organism-Receptor account raises some worrying questions, but as a more faithful characterization of scientific practice it is a better guide to conceptual reform.