Constructing a Philosophy of Science of Cognitive Science

Topics in Cognitive Science 1 (3):548-569 (2009)

Abstract

Philosophy of science is positioned to make distinctive contributions to cognitive science by providing perspective on its conceptual foundations and by advancing normative recommendations. The philosophy of science I embrace is naturalistic in that it is grounded in the study of actual science. Focusing on explanation, I describe the recent development of a mechanistic philosophy of science from which I draw three normative consequences for cognitive science. First, insofar as cognitive mechanisms are information-processing mechanisms, cognitive science needs an account of how the representations invoked in cognitive mechanisms carry information about contents, and I suggest that control theory offers the needed perspective on the relation of representations to contents. Second, I argue that cognitive science requires, but is still in search of, a catalog of cognitive operations that researchers can draw upon in explaining cognitive mechanisms. Last, I provide a new perspective on the relation of cognitive science to brain sciences, one which embraces both reductive research on neural components that figure in cognitive mechanisms and a concern with recomposing higher-level mechanisms from their components and situating them in their environments

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William Bechtel
University of California, San Diego

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