The complex systems approach (CSA) to characterizing cognitive function is purported to underlie a conceptual and methodological revolution by its proponents. I examine one central claim from each of the contributed papers and argue that the provided examples do not justify calls for radical change in how we do cognitive science. Instead, I note how currently available approaches in ‘‘standard’’ cognitive science are adequate (or even more appropriate) for understanding the CSA provided examples.
Inductive reasoning is a fundamental and complex aspect of human intelligence. In particular, how do subjects, given a set of particular examples, generate general descriptions of the rules governing that set? We present a biologically plausible method for accomplishing this task and implement it in a spiking neuron model. We demonstrate the success of this model by applying it to the problem domain of Raven's Progressive Matrices, a widely used tool in the field of intelligence testing. The model is able (...) to generate the rules necessary to correctly solve Raven's items, as well as recreate many of the experimental effects observed in human subjects. (shrink)
To have a fully integrated understanding of neurobiological systems, we must address two fundamental questions: 1. What do brains do (what is their function)? and 2. How do brains do whatever it is that they do (how is that function implemented)? I begin by arguing that these questions are necessarily inter-related. Thus, addressing one without consideration of an answer to the other, as is often done, is a mistake. I then describe what I take to be the best available approach (...) to addressing both questions. Specifically, to address 2, I adopt the Neural Engineering Framework (NEF) of Eliasmith & Anderson [Neural engineering: Computation representation and dynamics in neurobiological systems. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003] which identifies implementational principles for neural models. To address 1, I suggest that adopting statistical modeling methods for perception and action will be functionally sufficient for capturing biological behavior. I show how these two answers will be mutually constraining, since the process of model selection for the statistical method in this approach can be informed by known anatomical and physiological properties of the brain, captured by the NEF. Similarly, the application of the NEF must be informed by functional hypotheses, captured by the statistical modeling approach. (shrink)
The properties of Turing’s famous ‘universal machine’ has long sustained functionalist intuitions about the nature of cognition. Here, I show that there is a logical problem with standard functionalist arguments for multiple realizability. These arguments rely essentially on Turing’s powerful insights regarding computation. In addressing a possible reply to this criticism, I further argue that functionalism is not a useful approach for understanding what it is to have a mind. In particular, I show that the difficulties involved in distinguishing implementation (...) from function make multiple realizability claims untestable and uninformative. As a result, I conclude that the role of Turing machines in philosophy of mind needs to be reconsidered. (shrink)
In this article, we highlight three questions: (1) Does human cognition rely on structured internal representations? (2) How should theories, models and data relate? (3) In what ways might embodiment, action and dynamics matter for understanding the mind and the brain?
Many contemporary philosophers favor coherence theories of knowledge (Bender 1989, BonJour 1985, Davidson 1986, Harman 1986, Lehrer 1990). But the nature of coherence is usually left vague, with no method provided for determining whether a belief should be accepted or rejected on the basis of its coherence or incoherence with other beliefs. Haack's (1993) explication of coherence relies largely on an analogy between epistemic justification and crossword puzzles. We show in this paper how epistemic coherence can be understood in terms (...) of maximization of constraint satisfaction, in keeping with computational models that have had a substantial impact in cognitive science. A coherence problem can be defined in terms of a set of elements and sets of positive and negative constraints between pairs of those elements. Algorithms are available for computing coherence by determining how to accept and reject elements in a way that satisfies the most constraints. Knowledge involves at least five different kinds of coherence - explanatory, analogical, deductive, perceptual, and conceptual - each requiring different sorts of elements and constraints. (shrink)
I argue that dynamicism does not provide a convincing alternative to currently available cognitive theories. First, I show that the attractor dynamics of dynamicist models are inadequate for accounting for high-level cognition. Second, I argue that dynamicist arguments for the rejection of computation and representation are unsound in light of recent empirical findings. This new evidence provides a basis for questioning the importance of continuity to cognitive function, challenging a central commitment of dynamicism. Coupled with a defense of current connectionist (...) theory, these two critiques lead to the conclusion that dynamicists have failed to achieve their goal of providing a new paradigm for understanding cognition. (shrink)
Questions concerning the nature of representation and what representations are about have been a staple of Western philosophy since Aristotle. Recently, these same questions have begun to concern neuroscientists, who have developed new techniques and theories for understanding how the locus of neurobiological representation, the brain, operates. My dissertation draws on philosophy and neuroscience to develop a novel theory of representational content.
It will always remain a remarkable phenomenon in the history of philosophy, that there was a time, when even mathematicians, who at the same time were philosophers, began to doubt, not of the accuracy of their geometrical propositions so far as they concerned space, but of their objective validity and the applicability of this concept itself, and of all its corollaries, to nature. They showed much concern whether a line in nature might not consist of physical points, and consequently that (...) true space in the object might consist of simple [discrete] parts, while the space which the geometer has in his mind [being continuous] cannot be such. (shrink)
Van Gelder has presented a position which he ties closely to a broad class of models known as dynamical models. While supporting many of his broader claims about the importance of this class (as has been argued by connectionists for quite some time), I note that there are a number of unique characteristics of his brand of dynamicism. I suggest that these characteristics engender difficulties for his view.
Van Gelder (1995) has recently spearheaded a movement to challenge the dominance of connectionist and classicist models in cognitive science. The dynamical conception of cognition is van Gelder's replacement for the computation bound paradigms provided by connectionism and classicism. He relies on the Watt governor to fulfill the role of a dynamicist Turing machine and claims that the Motivational Oscillatory Theory (MOT) provides a sound empirical basis for dynamicism. In other words, the Watt governor is to be the theoretical exemplar (...) of the class of systems necessary for cognition and MOT is an empirical instantiation of that class. However, I shall argue that neither the Watt governor nor MOT successfully fulfill these prescribed roles. This failure, along with van Gelder's peculiar use of the concept of computation and his struggle with representationalism, prevent him from providing a convincing alternative to current cognitive theories. (shrink)
There has been a long-standing debate between symbolicists and connectionists concerning the nature of representation used by human cognizers. In general, symbolicist commitments have allowed them to provide superior models of high-level cognitive function. In contrast, connectionist distributed representations are preferred for providing a description of low-level cognition. The development of Holographic Reduced Representations (HRRs) has opened the possibility of one representational medium unifying both low-level and high-level descriptions of cognition. This paper describes the relative strengths and weaknesses of symbolic (...) and distributed representations. HRRs are shown to capture the important strengths of both types of representation. These properties of HRRs allow a rebuttal of Fodor and McLaughlin's (1990) criticism that distributed representations are not adequately structure sensitive to provide a full account of human cognition. (shrink)
Peter Achinstein (1990, 1991) analyses the scientific debate that took place in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries concerning the nature of light. He offers a probabilistic account of the methods employed by both particle theorists and wave theorists, and rejects any analysis of this debate in terms of coherence. He characterizes coherence through reference to William Whewell's writings concerning how "consilience of inductions" establishes an acceptable theory (Whewell, 1847) . Achinstein rejects this analysis because of its vagueness and lack of (...) reference to empirical data, concluding that coherence is insufficient to account for the belief change that took place during the wave-particle debate. (shrink)
In a recent series of publications, dynamicist researchers have proposed a new conception of cognitive functioning. This conception is intended to replace the currently dominant theories of connectionism and symbolicism. The dynamicist approach to cognitive modeling employs concepts developed in the mathematical field of dynamical systems theory. They claim that cognitive models should be embedded, low-dimensional, complex, described by coupled differential equations, and non-representational. In this paper I begin with a short description of the dynamicist project and its role as (...) a cognitive theory. Subsequently, I determine the theoretical commitments of dynamicists, critically examine those commitments and discuss current examples of dynamicist models. In conclusion, I determine dynamicism's relation to symbolicism and connectionism and find that the dynamicist goal to establish a new paradigm has yet to be realized. (shrink)