The Role of Cognitive Science in Epistemology and the Philosophy of Science

Dissertation, University of California, San Diego (1995)

Philip Brey
University of Twente
In this dissertation, it is investigated what role cognitive science is to play in a thoroughly naturalized epistemology and philosophy of science. The dissertation consists of four parts. In part I, the aim is to investigate what research questions and methods are valid in a naturalized approach to issues in epistemology and philosophy of science. This part contains a critical discussion of contemporary naturalistic approaches, in particular the cognitive approaches of Alvin Goldman, Paul Thagard, Paul Churchland, and Ron Giere. Following this discussion, a number of descriptive, explanatory and normative projects in epistemology and the philosophy of science is outlined, and it is investigated how these are best approached methodologically. ;In part II, the aim is to investigate the proper relation between cognitive and sociological approaches in the study of knowledge. I begin with an assessment of the reducibility of aspects of science to cognitive states and processes, implying that their descriptive analysis is a task of a cognitive philosophy of science. Next, the role of social and cognitive factors in the explanation and in the evaluation of knowledge states and processes is examined. Finally, I analyze cognitive and sociological methodologies in the study of science, in particular those of Thagard, Giere, David Bloor and Steve Woolgar, and outline my own methodology. ;In Part III, a cognitive framework is outlined for a cognitive epistemology and philosophy of science. This framework integrates connectionist approaches in cognitive science with enactivist approaches and work in schema theory and cognitive model theory. ;In part IV, this cognitive framework is applied in an investigation of the structure and function of theoretical knowledge. I begin with a general analysis of the theoretical structure of knowledge. Next, I investigate various theoretical functions: prediction, descriptive-analysis, explanation and unification, and analyze these in terms of the problem-solving abilities they confer. Next, I propose a cognitive account of scientific theories that integrates model-theoretic and Kuhnian perspectives, and assigns a central role to iconic models in science. Finally, I propose cognitive-pragmatic analyses of realism, truth, and epistemic virtue
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