What Is Cognitive Science? (MIT Press)

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9780262720236: What Is Cognitive Science? (MIT Press)
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In this richly detailed analysis, Barbara Von Eckardt lays the foundations for understanding what it means to be a cognitive scientist. She characterizes the basic assumptions that define the cognitive science approach and systematically sorts out a host of recent and the controversies surrounding them.

The field of cognitive science is now in its third decade, yet the question remains whether this lively and fertile science, which studies the human mind and draws on disciplines as varied as linguistics, artificial intelligence, philosophy, cognitive psychology, and neuroscience, can exist as a coherent intellectual enterprise. In this richly detailed analysis, Barbara Von Eckardt lays the foundations for understanding what it means to be a cognitive scientist. She characterizes the basic assumptions that define the cognitive science approach and systematically sorts out a host of recent issues and controversies surrounding them.

Von Eckardt takes issue with those who (like Howard Gardner in The Mind's New Science) argue that there is no agreed-upon research paradigm and no agreed-upon set of assumptions or methods in cognitive science, and with those who believe that the field should not be so committed. She argues that there is indeed a framework of shared commitments, which includes basic questions that guide research, substantive assumptions that constrain how those questions are to be answered, and methodological assumptions about how to find those answers.

In the first two chapters, Von Eckardt describes Stephen Kosslyn's work on mental imagery as a paradigmatic example of research in cognitive science and considers the domain and the basic questions of cognitive science. In the next six chapters she focuses on the substantive assumptions of cognitive science – in particular, that the human mind is computational and that it is representational. The in the final chapter she shows how these assumptions are used to answer the basic questions of the field and discusses its methodological assumption (including several controversial assumptions about the role of neuroscience). She concludes by setting out the challenges cognitive science must meet in the future.

A Bradford Book.

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This important book accomplishes a remarkable feat. It lucidly articulates and critically examines the shared assumptions that define the field of cognitive science at a time when many have come to suspect that cognitive science is a field in name only. This is the book on the foundations of cognitive science.

(Owen Flanagan, Professor of Philosophy, Duke University)

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