Phil/Psych 447 Phil 673

Seminar in Cognitive Science: Cognition and Social Change

Week 1: Introduction

Introduction to Social Change


What are some examples over the last twenty years of surprising social changes and expected changes that haven't taken place.

Over the next twenty years, what changes do you hope to see and what changes do you hope to prevent?

Of the past changes, what are the typical features?

What do they explain?

What are the explanations of why social change occurs?

What do you wish you knew about social change?

How is cognition relevant to explaining social change?

How can people act to bring about social change?

Explanations of social change

1. Rational choice in individuals.

2. Social forces.

3. Postmodernism: describe but don't try to explain.

4. God's will.

Introduction to Philosophy

Thagard: Why cognitive science needs philosophy and vice versa.

Areas of Philosophy





Positions in the philosophy of mind

What is a mental state?

1. Dualism: mental state = non-material state of spiritual mind. E.g. Descartes, Eccles, religious views.

2. Idealism: everything is mental. Pan-psychism: everything is conscious, at least to a degree.

3. Identity theory: mental state = brain state. E.g. JJC Smart 1950s

4. Functionalism: mental state = functional state of an information processing system. There is an underlying physical state (functionalism is a kind of materialism) but the physical state places no constraints on mental states.

5. Eliminative materialism: do not try to equate mental states with anything, since our theory of mental states is just part of folk psychology which is largely false. Instead, replace talk of mental states with theories drawn from human neuroscience. Reject functionalism because it is crucial that thinking is based in human brains. Paul and Pat Churchland.

6. Mysterian materialism: mental states are physical states, but are far too weird and complicated to be explained scientifically.

Introduction to Cognitive Science

Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary study of mind and intelligence, including philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, anthropology, and artificial intelligence.


History of philosophy: Plato, Aristotle, empiricists, rationalists.
Origins of experimental psychology in 1870s: Wundt, James, behaviorists

Origin of modern cognitive science: mid-1950s

Artificial intelligence
Cognitive psychology
Chomsky’s linguistics
Computer analogy: thinking is representation + processing, a kind of computation.

This is a hypothesis, and might be false.

Challenges to cognitive science:

Later Developments:

Current status

Aim: use theoretical neuroscience to explain (provide mechanisms for) all aspects of cognition, including rules, concepts, imagery, parallel constraint satisfaction, analogy, and emotion.


Phil/Psych 447

Paul Thagard

Computational Epistemology Laboratory.

This page updated Sept. 10, 2015