Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Cognition in practice: Conceptual development and disagreement in cognitive science
by Akagi, Mikio Shaun Mikuriya, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, 2016, 229; 10183682
Abstract (Summary)

Cognitive science has been beset for thirty years by foundational disputes about the nature and extension of cognition—e.g. whether cognition is necessarily representational, whether cognitive processes extend outside the brain or body, and whether plants or microbes have them. Whereas previous philosophical work aimed to settle these disputes, I aim to understand what conception of cognition scientists could share given that they disagree so fundamentally. To this end, I develop a number of variations on traditional conceptual explication, and defend a novel explication of cognition called the sensitive management hypothesis.

Since expert judgments about the extension of “cognition” vary so much, I argue that there is value in explication that accurately models the variance in judgments rather than taking sides or treating that variance as noise. I say of explications that accomplish this that they are ecumenically extensionally adequate. Thus, rather than adjudicating whether, say, plants can have cognitive processes like humans, an ecumenically adequate explication should classify these cases differently: human cognitive processes as paradigmatically cognitive, and plant processes as controversially cognitive.

I achieve ecumenical adequacy by articulating conceptual explications with parameters, or terms that can be assigned a number of distinct interpretations based on the background commitments of participants in a discourse. For example, an explication might require that cognition cause “behavior,” and imply that plant processes are cognitive or not depending on whether anything plants do can be considered “behavior.” Parameterization provides a unified treatment of embattled concepts by isolating topics of disagreement in a small number of parameters.

I incorporate these innovations into an account on which cognition is the “sensitive management of organismal behavior.” The sensitive management hypothesis is ecumenically extensionally adequate, accurately classifying a broad variety of cases as paradigmatically or controversially cognitive phenomena. I also describe an extremely permissive version of the sensitive management hypothesis, arguing that it has the potential to explain several features of cognitive scientific discourse, including various facts about the way cognitive scientists ascribe representations to cognitive systems.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Brandom, Robert B.
School: University of Pittsburgh
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 78/03(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Behavioral psychology, Philosophy of Science, Philosophy
Keywords: Cognition, Cognitive science, Conceptual analysis, Disagreement, Mark of the cognitive, Scientific practice
Publication Number: 10183682
ISBN: 9781369318067
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