The philosophy of cognitive science
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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In A. Brenner & J. Gayon (eds.), French Studies in the Philosophy of Science: Contemporary Research in France. Springer (2009)
The rise of cognitive science in the last half-century has been accompanied by a considerable amount of philosophical activity. No other area within analytic philosophy in the second half of that period has attracted more attention or produced more publications. Philosophical work relevant to cognitive science has become a sprawling field (extending beyond analytic philosophy) which no one can fully master, although some try and keep abreast of the philosophical literature and of the essential scientific developments. Due to the particular nature of its subject, it touches on a multitude of distinct special branches in philosophy and in science. It has also become quite a difficult, complicated and technical field, to the point of being nearly impenetrable for philosophers or scientists coming from other fields or traditions. Finally, it is contentious: Cognitive science is far from having reached stability, it is still widely regarded with suspicion, philosophers working within its confine have sharp disagreements amongst themselves, and philosophers standing outside, especially (but not only) of non-analytic persuasion, are often inclined to see both cognitive science and its accompanying philosophy as more or less confused or even deeply flawed. The sensible way to go under the circumstances, or so one might judge, would be to pick a sample of salient topics, in the present case, philosophical discussions of some central foundational issues, in the hope thereby of giving the reader a sense of what the field is about. This however is not the path I propose to take. There are two reasons for choosing another tack. The negative reason is that there is now available a plethora of excellent expositions, of any length one might desire, from one-page summaries to chapter- or volume-length introductions, of central topics in philosophy of mind (which constitutes in turn the core of what most philosophers think of as philosophy of cognitive science: more on this in a moment)1..
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