Reconstructing the Cognitive World: The Next Step

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Overview

In Reconstructing the Cognitive World, Michael Wheeler argues that we should turn away from the generically Cartesian philosophical foundations of much contemporary cognitive science research and proposes instead a Heideggerian approach. Wheeler begins with an interpretation of Descartes. He defines Cartesian psychology as a conceptual framework of explanatory principles and shows how each of these principles is part of the deep assumptions of orthodox cognitive science (both classical and connectionist). Wheeler then turns to Heidegger's radically non-Cartesian account of everyday cognition, which, he argues, can be used to articulate the philosophical foundations of a genuinely non-Cartesian cognitive science. Finding that
Heidegger's critique of Cartesian thinking falls short, even when supported by Hubert Dreyfus's influential critique of orthodox artificial intelligence, Wheeler suggests a new Heideggerian approach. He points to recent research in "embodied-embedded" cognitive science and proposes a
Heideggerian framework to identify, amplify, and clarify the underlying philosophical foundations of this new work. He focuses much of his investigation on recent work in artificial intelligence-oriented robotics, discussing, among other topics, the nature and status of representational explanation, and whether (and to what extent) cognition is computation rather than a noncomputational phenomenon best described in the language of dynamical systems theory.

Wheeler's argument draws on analytic philosophy, continental philosophy,
and empirical work to "reconstruct" the philosophical foundations of cognitive science in a time of a fundamental shift away from a generically Cartesian approach. His analysis demonstrates that
Heideggerian continental philosophy and naturalistic cognitive science need not be mutually exclusive and shows further that a Heideggerian framework can act as the "conceptual glue" for new work in cognitive science.

The MIT Press

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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
"After shedding a harsh new light on the Cartesian flaws at the heart of much of mainstream cognitive science, Wheeler carefully and persuasively builds a case for an alternativeHeideggerian approach, grounding his arguments in current empirical work in AI. Superbly written with great clarity and energy (not to mention scholarship), this is a very important book for all serious students of cognitive science and its constituent disciplines from AI to philosophy of mind." Phil Husbands, Professor of Artificial Intelligence, University of Sussex
Mark A. Bedau

Engaging, admirably clear, and written with an authority that comes only from intimate familiarity with contemporary research on cognition, Wheeler develops a biologically grounded and noncomputational notion of mental representation that forms the foundation for a broadly Heideggerian interpretation of the revolutionary embodied-embedded turn in contemporary cognitive science. This book has the potential to radically reshape how cognitive science and analytical philosophy view the mind.

Phil Husbands

After shedding a harsh new light on the Cartesian flaws at the heart of much of mainstream cognitive science, Wheeler carefully and persuasively builds a case for an alternative
Heideggerian approach, grounding his arguments in current empirical work in AI. Superbly written with great clarity and energy (not to mention scholarship), this is a very important book for all serious students of cognitive science and its constituent disciplines from AI to philosophy of mind.

Margaret A. Boden

Michael Wheeler has given us a masterly account of the embodied, dynamical perspective in cognitive science. His book is philosophically sophisticated, technically well informed, and beautifully written. It communicates the excitement and biological relevance of a variety of work in A-life, and shows how some of Heidegger's ideas can be constructively applied to the field. It will even make you laugh. In short: it's not to be missed.

Mark Rowlands

Taking Rodney Brooks's pronouncement 'It isn't German philosophy' as his point of departure, Wheeler shows that, on the contrary, much of the most recent and interesting work in cognitive science has been implicitly, but importantly, guided by principles that derive from the work of the great German phenomenologist Martin Heidegger. In rigorously and lucidly prosecuting this case, Wheeler develops a devastating attack on Cartesian cognitive science, and produces his own significant contribution towards an embedded and embodied alternative. This is a wonderful and timely book.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262731829
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 3/30/2007
  • Series: Bradford Books Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 356
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Wheeler is Reader in Philosophy at the University of Stirling. He is the author of
Reconstructing the Cognitive World: The Next Step (MIT Press, 2005).
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Table of Contents

1 Setting the scene 1
2 Clank, whirr, cognition : Descartes on minds and machines 21
3 Descartes's ghost : the haunting of cognitive science 55
4 Explaining the behavior of springs, pendulums, and cognizers 89
5 Being over there : beginning a Heideggerian adventure 121
6 Being-in with the in-crowd 145
7 Doorknobs and monads 161
8 Out of our heads 193
9 Heideggerian reflections 225
10 It's not a threat, it's an opportunity 249
11 A re-beginning : it's cognitive science, but not as we know it 283
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