Wednesday, January 20, 2010

General Works in Philosophy of Cognitive Science

I'm under contract to prepare the Philosophy of Cognitive Science entry for the new project, Oxford Bibliographies Online: Philosophy. Over the next week or so I'll be posting draft chunks so interested Hammer Heads can weigh in on any egregious omissions or regrettable inclusions. Below is the first part.

Cognitive science is an interdisciplinary study of the mind loosely united by the idea that the mind is a computer. Philosophy is one of the main contributing disciplines (along with psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, and computer science) and many of its contributions concern the conceptual foundations of the separate disciplines (e.g. psychology and artificial intelligence), explorations of the relations between the disciplines (e.g. is psychology reducible to neuroscience?), and examinations of core uniting ideas (e.g. how best can we understand the idea that the mind is a computer?). Much contemporary philosophy of cognitive science overlaps with contemporary philosophy of mind. The present work tries as much as possible to focus on work peculiar to the philosophy of cognitive science, but the reader is advised to see pertinent work discussed in other Oxford Online Bibliographies, especially *METAPHYSICS OF MIND*, *CONSCIOUSNESS*, and *INTENTIONALITY*.

The works presented here address philosophy of cognitive science considered as a whole. Two sorts of general overview are represented here. The first takes on, as a philosophical project, the problem of how best to view the enterprise of cognitive science (an enterprise to which philosophy may contribute). Overviews of the first sort include Bechtel (in press), Davies (2005), Dennett (2009), and von Eckardt (1993). Dennett’s is the shortest and von Eckardt’s is the lengthiest. Dennett’s is perhaps too brief to serve as a solid overview, but he is such a major player in the filed that this piece merits attention. Bechtel’s is the next in order of brevity and surpasses Dennett’s in terms of use as an overview. The second sort of general overview is more descriptive than prescriptive and takes on the project of detailing the main kinds of philosophical contributions that have been made under the heading “philosophy of cognitive science”. Overviews of the second sort include Andler (2009), Grush (2002), and Thagard (2008). Grush’s is the best of these three. Andler’s approach is a bit idiosyncratic and his treatment is longer than Grush’s. Thagard’s aim is more to supply an overview of cognitive science than the philosophy thereof. However, Thagard’s intended audience is philosophical and thus manages to serve as a useful overview to the philosophy of cognitive science.

Andler, D. (2009). Philosophy of cognitive science. In A. Brenner & J. Gayon (Eds.), French Studies In The Philosophy Of Science. Dordrecht: Springer.
A slightly idiosyncratic essay, and not as brief as other overviews listed here.

Bechtel, W. (in press). How can philosophy be a true cognitive science discipline? Topics in Cognitive Science.
Spells out an answer to the titular question by focusing on philosophical contributions to the understanding of the mind-body problem, representation, and explanation.

Davies, M. (2005). An Approach to Philosophy of Cognitive Science. In F. Jackson & M. Smith (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Analytic Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Wide ranging in the topics covered and deep in their treatment. Perhaps not terribly accessible, however, to novices.

Dennett, D. (2009). The part of cognitive science that is philosophy. Topics in Cognitive Science 1, 231–236.
Very brief, focusing on the question of what philosophy can contribute to cognitive science. Worth attention primarily for being by one of the giants of the philosophy of cognitive science.

Grush, R. (2002). The Philosophy of Cognitive Science. In P. Machamer & M. Silberstein (Eds.), Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Science. Oxford: Blackwell.
The best of the overviews presented here, covering most of the main relevant topics in a concise and accessible way.

Thagard, P. (2008). Cognitive Science. In E. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition).
An introduction, for a philosophical audience, of cognitive science, not just the philosophy thereof. But useful, nonetheless, in what it has to say toward the end about the philosophy of cognitive science.

von Eckardt, B. (1993). What is Cognitive Science? Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Book length treatment of the titular question, offering an answer that is highly focused on the notion of mental representation.

Being both young and interdisciplinary, there’s little consensus on how best to teach either cognitive science or the philosophy thereof. The texts featured here are either textbooks for the philosophy of cognitive science, or textbooks for cognitive science with major authorial input from philosophers. Clark (2001) is the one most explicitly aimed at treating the philosophy of cognitive science. Also distinctive of Clark’s contribution is its sympathy for both embodied cognition and connectionism (reflecting Clark’s own research interests). Stillings et al (1995) has its chapter organization based on the main contributing disciplines in cognitive science (psychology, artificial intelligence, linguistics, neuroscience, and philosophy). Kolak et al (2006), in contrast has its chapter organization based on main areas of inquiry in cognitive science (e.g. memory, language, perception). Kolak et al (2006) is written by philosophers and is weighted more towards philosophy and neuroscience than other contributing disciplines. Thagard (1996) is written by a philosopher, is perhaps more weighted toward computational approaches than the other texts presented here, and has its chapter organization based on main areas of inquiry. Thagard’s focus throughout is on the main theories of mental representation offered by cognitive scientists.

Clark, A. (2001). Mindware: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Cognitive Science. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Highly accessible, distinctive in part for its emphasis on embodiment and connectionism.

Kolak, D., Hirstein, W., Mandik, P., & Waskan, J. (2006). Cognitive Science: An Introduction to the Mind and Brain. New York: Routledge.
An overview with particular emphasis on philosophy and neuroscience. Its chapter organization is based on main areas of cognitive scientific inquiry (such as perception, memory, action, and language).

Stillings, N., S. Weisler, C. Chase, M. Feinstein, J. Garfield, and E. Rissland. (1995). Cognitive Science: An Introduction. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
An excellent overview of the main contributing disciplines to cognitive science (psychology, artificial intelligence, linguistics, neuroscience, and philosophy).

Thagard, P. (1996). Mind: Introduction to cognitive science. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
An introduction organized around different cognitive scientific approaches to mental representation.

Both Bechtel and Graham (1998) and Wilson and Keil (1999) are excellent and wide-ranging encyclopedic works, containing many articles by leading figures. Bechtel and graham (1998) is especially noteworthy for the comprehensive introductory essay by Bechtel, Abrahamsen, and Graham, “The Life of Cognitive Science.” Chalmers and Bourget (2009) is a frequently updated online bibliography on the philosophy of cognitive science. Many of the entries contain abstracts and links to the full text of articles.

Bechtel, W., & Graham, G. (Eds.) (1998). A companion to cognitive science. Oxford: Blackwell.
An excellent encyclopedic resource, especially noteworthy for the comprehensive introductory essay “The Life of Cognitive Science.”

Chalmers, D. and Bourget, D. (2009). “PhilPapers: Philosophy of Cognitive Science”.
A frequently updated online bibliography, many entries of which contain abstracts and links to full text of articles.

Wilson, R. A., & Keil, F. C. (Eds.). (1999). The MIT encyclopedia of the cognitive sciences. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
An excellent encyclopedic resource.

All of the anthologies contain useful material on the philosophy of cognitive science, but the ones most explicitly focused on the philosophy of cognitive science (as opposed to cognitive science in general) are Goldman (1993), Stainton (2006), and Thagard (2007). The reader looking for a portable volume should be warned about the very large size of Cummins and Cummins (2000) and Goldman (1993), though both contain an excellent collection of classic articles by key figures. Thagard (2007) is similar in quality but is both more up to date and more portable. The most portable of the anthologies listed here are Stainton (2006) and Thagard (1998). Stainton (2006) and Thagard (2007) are the most up to date.

Cummins, D. D., & Cummins, R. (Eds.). (2000). Minds, Brains, and Computers: An Historical Introduction to the Foundations of Cognitive Science. Oxford: Blackwell.
Excellent, though very large, collection of classic articles by key figures.

Goldman, A. I. (1993). Readings in philosophy and cognitive science. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Excellent, though extremely large, collection of classic articles by key figures.

Stainton, R. (2006). Contemporary debates in cognitive science. Oxford: Blackwell.
A collection of commissioned pairs of papers representing opposing sides of key issues. An excellent volume in an excellent series.

Thagard, P. (Ed.). (1998). Mind readings: Introductory selections on cognitive science. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press/Bradford Books.
An accessible and portable anthology aiming at coverage of cognitive science in general (as opposed to only the philosophy of cognitive science).

Thagard, P. (Ed.). (2007). Philosophy of psychology and cognitive science. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
An excellent and highly up to date collection.