In Catherine Kendig (ed.), Natural Kinds and Classification in Scientific Practice. Routledge. pp. 47-56 (2016)

Authors
Jacqueline Anne Sullivan
University of Western Ontario
Abstract
In this chapter, I argue that scientific practice in the neurosciences of cognition is not conducive to the discovery of natural kinds of cognitive capacities. The “neurosciences of cognition” include cognitive neuroscience and cognitive neurobiology, two research areas that aim to understand how the brain gives rise to cognition and behavior. Some philosophers of neuroscience have claimed that explanatory progress in these research areas ultimately will result in the discovery of the underlying mechanisms of cognitive capacities. Once such mechanistic understanding is achieved, cognitive capacities purportedly will be relegated into natural kind categories that correspond to real divisions in the causal structure of the world. I provide reasons here, however, in support of the claim that the neurosciences of cognition currently are not on a trajectory for discovering natural kinds. As I explain, this has to do with how mechanistic explanations of cognitive capacities are developed. Mechanistic explanations and the kinds they explain are abstract representational byproducts of the conceptual, experimental and integrative practices of neuroscientists. If these practices are not coordinated towards developing mechanistic explanations that mirror the causal structure of the world, then natural kinds of cognitive capacities will not be discovered. I provide reasons to think that such coordination is currently lacking in the neurosciences of cognition and indicate where changes in these practices appropriate to the natural kinds ideal would be required if achieving this ideal is indeed the goal. However, I suggest that an evaluation of current practices in these research areas is suggestive that discovering natural kinds of cognitive capacities is not the goal.
Keywords Cognition  Experimentation  Neuroscience  Natural kinds  Scientific practice
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Construct Validity in Psychological Tests.Lee J. Cronbach & P. E. Meehl - 1956 - In Herbert Feigl & Michael Scriven (eds.), Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science. , Vol. pp. 1--174.

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