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Cognition. The Philosophy Portal.











Cognition


Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary study of mind and intelligence, embracing philosophy, psychology, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, linguistics, and anthropology. Its intellectual origins are in the mid-1950s when researchers in several fields began to develop theories of mind based on complex representations and computational procedures. Its organizational origins are in the mid-1970s when the Cognitive Science Society was formed and the journal Cognitive Science began. Since then, more than ninety universities in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia have established cognitive science programs, and many others have instituted courses in cognitive science.

Non-cognitivism is a variety of irrealism about ethics with a number of influential variants. Non-cognitivists agree with error theorists that there are no moral properties or moral facts. But rather than thinking that this makes moral statements false, non-cognitivists claim that moral statements are not in the business of predicating properties or making statements which could be true or false in any substantial sense. Roughly put, non-cognitivists think that moral statements have no substantial truth conditions. Furthermore, according to non-cognitivists, when people utter moral sentences they are not typically expressing states of mind which are beliefs or which are cognitive in the way that beliefs are. Rather they are expressing non-cognitive attitudes more similar to desires, approval or disapproval.

The emerging field of Cognitive Science unites researchers in philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, anthropology, and sociology in the study of the human mind. The new Philosophy-Cognitive Studies major at the University of Cincinnati allows students to take a wide variety of courses in these disciplines. Students gain a strong foundation in Cognitive Science, while maintaining a focus on the “big” questions concerning cognition and mentality. Two new introductory courses specifically designed for this track serve as an entry-point to the active and growing field of Cognitive Science.

Cognition is embodied when it is deeply dependent upon features of the physical body of an agent, that is, when aspects of the agent's body beyond the brain play a significant causal or physically constitutive role in cognitive processing.

In general, dominant views in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science have considered the body as peripheral to understanding the nature of mind and cognition. Proponents of embodied cognitive science view this as a serious mistake. Sometimes the nature of the dependence of cognition on the body is quite unexpected, and suggests new ways of conceptualizing and exploring the mechanics of cognitive processing.

The philosophical issues that relate to research on animal cognition can be categorized into three groups: foundational issues about whether non-human animals are the proper subject of psychological investigation; methodological issues about how to study animal minds; and more specific issues that arise from within the specific research programs.

Research in Cognitive Science traditionally focuses on the intersections of philosophy, cognitive psychology, computer science, and neuroscience. In particular, by integrating/synthesizing theories, experiments, and arguments from the various disciplines, cognitive scientists hope to achieve deeper insights into the nature of cognition. Many of the core issues and questions of cognitive science thus have deep philosophical relevance.

Over the past three decades, philosophy of science has grown increasingly “local.” Concerns have switched from general features of scientific practice to concepts, issues, and puzzles specific to particular disciplines. Philosophy of neuroscience is a natural result. This emerging area was also spurred by remarkable recent growth in the neurosciences. Cognitive and computational neuroscience continues to encroach upon issues traditionally addressed within the humanities, including the nature of consciousness, action, knowledge, and normativity. Empirical discoveries about brain structure and function suggest ways that “naturalistic” programs might develop in detail, beyond the abstract philosophical considerations in their favor.