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Abstract: Recent work in biology and cognitive science depicts a variety of target phenomena as the products of a tangled web of causal influences. Such influences may include both internal and external factors as well as complex patterns of reciprocal causal interaction. Such twisted tales are sometimes seen as a threat to explanatory strategies that invoke notions such as inner programs, genes for and sometimes even internal representations. But the threat, I shall argue, is more apparent than real. Complex causal influence, in and of itself, provides no good reason to reject these familiar explanatory notions. To believe otherwise, I suggest, is generally to commit (at least) one of two seductive errors. The first error is to think that the general notion of a state x coding for an outcome y involves the state's constituting a full description of y. This is what I call the myth of the self-contained code. The second error is to think that the practice of treating certain factors as special (e.g., seeing genes as coding for outcomes in a way environmental factors do not) depends on the (often mistaken) belief that the singled out factor is somehow doing the most real work. Where the amounts of causal influence are evenly spread, it is assumed there can be no reason to treat one factor in a special way. This is what I term the Myth of Explanatory Equality. Avoiding these errors involves reminding ourselves of (1) the rich context-dependence of even standard, unproblematic uses of the notions of code, program and information content (all three make sense only relative to an assumed ecological backdrop) and (2) the difference between explaining why an event occurred and displaying the full workings of a complex causal system
Abstract: Is an individual agent constitutive of or constituted by its social interactions? This question is typically not asked in the cognitive sciences, so strong is the consensus that only individual agents have constitutive efficacy. In this article we challenge this methodological solipsism and argue that interindividual relations and social context do not simply arise from the behavior of individual agents, but themselves enable and shape the individual agents on which they depend. For this, we define the notion of autonomy as both a characteristic of individual agents and of social interaction processes. We then propose a number of ways in which interactional autonomy can influence individuals. Then we discuss recent work in modeling on the one hand and psychological investigations on the other that support and illustrate this claim. Finally, we discuss some implications for research on social and individual agency.
Abstract: This paper comments on Gallagher’s recently published direct perception proposal about social cognition [Gallagher, S. (2008a). Direct perception in the intersubjective context. Consciousness and Cognition, 17(2), 535–543]. I show that direct perception is in danger of being appropriated by the very cognitivist accounts criticised by Gallagher (theory theory and simulation theory). Then I argue that the experiential directness of perception in social situations can be understood only in the context of the role of the interaction process in social cognition. I elaborate on the role of social interaction with a discussion of participatory sense-making to show that direct perception, rather than being a perception enriched by mainly individual capacities, can be best understood as an interactional phenomenon.
Abstract: This article provides a retrospective, current and prospective overview on developments in brain research and neuroscience. Both theoretical and empirical studies are considered, with emphasis in the concept of multivariability and metastability in the brain. In this new view on the human brain, the potential multivariability of the neuronal networks appears to be far from continuous in time, but confined by the dynamics of short-term local and global metastable brain states. The article closes by suggesting some of the implications of this view in future multidisciplinary brain research.
Abstract: Neuroscience offers more than new empirical evidence about the details of cognitive functions such as language, perception
and action. Since it also shows many functions to be highly distributed, interconnected and dependent on mechanisms
at different levels of processing, it challenges concepts that are traditionally used to describe these functions. The
question is how to accommodate these concepts to the recent evidence. A recent proposal, made in Philosophical Foundations
of Neuroscience (2003) by Bennett and Hacker, is that concepts play a foundational role in neuroscience, that empirical
research needs to presuppose them and that changing concepts is a philosophical task. In defending this perspective,
PFN shows much neuroscientific writing to be dualistic in nature due to our poor grasp of its foundations. In our review
article we take a different approach. Instead of foundationalism we plead for a mild coherentism, which allows for a gradual
and continuous alteration of concepts in light of new evidence. Following this approach it is also easier to deal with
some neurological conditions (like blindsight, synaesthesia) that pose difficulties for our concepts. Finally, although words
and concepts seem to seduce us to thinking that many skills and tasks function separately, it is language skill that – as
neuroscientific evidence shows – co-emerges with action/perception cycles and thus seems to require revision of some of
our central concepts.
Abstract: Recent research on infant and animal imitation and on mirror neuron systems has brought imitation back in focus in psychology and cognitive science. This topic has always been important for philosophical hermeneutics as well, focusing on theory and method of understanding. Unfortunately, relations between the scientific and the hermeneutic approaches to imitation and understanding have scarcely been investigated, to the loss of both disciplines. In contrast to the cognitive scientific emphasis on sharing and convergence of representations, the hermeneutic analysis emphasizes the indeterminacy and openness of action understanding due to preunderstanding, action configuration, and the processual nature of understanding. This article discusses empirical evidence in support of these aspects and concludes that hermeneutics can contribute to the scientific investigation of imitation and understanding. Since, conversely, some grounding—and constraining—aspects of hermeneutics may be derived from cognitive science, both should be integrated in a multilevel explanation of imitation and understanding. This holds also for explanations that are largely based on mirror neuron systems, since these appear to be sensitive to developmental and experiential factors, too.
Abstract: This paper conceives of Hayek’s overall project as presenting a theory of
sociocognition, explication of which has a two-fold purpose: (1) to locate
Hayek within the non-Cartesian tradition of cognitive science, and (2) to
show how Hayek’s philosophical psychology infuses his social theory.
Abstract: The Mind Doesn’t Work That Way is an expose of certain theoretical problems in cognitive science, and in particular, problems that concern the Classical Computational Theory of Mind (CTM). The problems that Fodor worries plague CTM divide into two kinds, and both purport to show that the success of cognitive science will likely be limited to the modules. The first sort of problem concerns what Fodor has called “global properties”; features that a mental sentence has which depend on how the sentence interacts with a larger plan (i.e., set of sentences), rather than the type identity of the sentence alone. The second problem concerns what many have called, “The Relevance Problem”: the problem of whether and how humans determine what is relevant in a computational manner. However, I argue that the problem that Fodor believes global properties pose for CTM is a non-problem, and that further, while the relevance problem is a serious research issue, it does not justify the grim view that cognitive science, and CTM in particular, will likely fail to explain cognition
Abstract: We introduce two notions–the shadows and the shallows of explanation–in opening up explanation to broader, interdisciplinary investigation. The shadows of explanation refer to past philosophical efforts to provide either a conceptual analysis of explanation or in some other way to pinpoint the essence of explanation. The shallows of explanation refer to the phenomenon of having surprisingly limited everyday, individual cognitive abilities when it comes to explanation. Explanations are ubiquitous, but they typically are not accompanied by the depth that we might, prima facie, expect. We explain the existence of the shadows and shallows of explanation in terms of there being a theoretical abyss between explanation and richer, theoretical structures that are often attributed to people. We offer an account of the shallows, in particular, both in terms of shorn-down, internal, mental machinery, and in terms of an enriched, public symbolic environment, relative to the currently dominant ways of thinking about cognition and the world
Abstract: Psychoneural reductionists sometimes claim that sufficient amounts of lower-level explanatory achievement preclude further contributions from higher-level psychological research. Ostensibly, with nothing left to do, the effect of such preclusion on psychological explanation is extinction. Reductionist arguments for preclusion have recently involved a reorientation within the philosophical foundations of neuroscience---namely, away from the philosophical foundations and toward the neuroscience. In this chapter, I review a successful reductive explanation of an aspect of reward function in terms of dopaminergic operations of the mesocorticolimbic system in order to demonstrate why preclusion/extinction claims are dubious.