Cognitive Pluralism

Cognitive Pluralism

by Steven Horst

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Overview

An argument that we understand the world through many special-purpose mental models of different content domains, and an exploration of the philosophical implications.

Philosophers have traditionally assumed that the basic units of knowledge and understanding are concepts, beliefs, and argumentative inferences. In Cognitive Pluralism , Steven Horst proposes that another sort of unit—a mental model of a content domain—is the fundamental unit of understanding. He argues that understanding comes not in word-sized concepts, sentence-sized beliefs, or argument-sized reasoning but in the form of idealized models and in domain-sized chunks. He argues further that this idea of “cognitive pluralism”—the claim that we understand the world through many such models of a variety of content domains—sheds light on a number of problems in philosophy.

Horst first presents the “standard view” of cognitive architecture assumed in mainstream epistemology, semantics, truth theory, and theory of reasoning. He then explains the notion of a mental model as an internal surrogate that mirrors features of its target domain, and puts it in the context of ideas in psychology, philosophy of science, artificial intelligence, and theoretical cognitive science. Finally, he argues that the cognitive pluralist view not only helps to explain puzzling disunities of knowledge but also raises doubts about the feasibility of attempts to “unify” the sciences; presents a model-based account of intuitive judgments; and contends that cognitive pluralism favors a reliabilist epistemology and a “molecularist” semantics. Horst suggests that cognitive pluralism allows us to view rival epistemological and semantic theories not as direct competitors but as complementary accounts, each an idealized model of different dimensions of evaluation.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780262034234
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 04/15/2016
Series: The MIT Press
Pages: 376
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Steven Horst is Professor of Philosophy at Wesleyan University. He is the author of Laws, Mind, and Free Will (MIT Press).

Table of Contents

Preface xi

I From the Standard View to Cognitive Pluralism 1

1 Introduction: Beliefs, Concepts, and Mental Models 3

1.1 Overview of the Book 7

2 A Standard Philosophical View of Cognitive Architecture 11

2.1 The Central Role of the Concept of Belief 12

2.2 The Three-Tiered Standard View of Cognitive Architecture 14

2.3 Some Philosophical Issues 15

2.4 Alternative Proposals regarding Architecture 23

3 Central and Modular Cognition 29

3.1 The Mind in Philosophy, Psychology, and Neuroscience 30

3.2 Fodor's Modularity of Mind 35

3.3 Motivations, Criticisms, and Alternatives 40

4 Beyond Modularity and Central Cognition 47

4.1 Core Systems 49

4.2 Folk Theories 56

4.3 Scientific Theories 58

4.4 Intuitive Reasoning, Semantic Reasoning, and Knowledge Representation 61

4.5 Mental Models 77

4.6 Moving beyond Central and Modular Cognition 78

5 Cognitive Pluralism 81

5.1 What Is Cognitive Pluralism? 83

5.2 Modules and Models 84

5.3 Models and Representation 85

5.4 Representation 86

5.5 Models and Idealization 92

5.6 Two Types of Alethetic Virtue 93

5.7 Types of Error 94

5.8 Knowledge and Understanding 95

5.9 Looking Forward 96

II Models and Understanding 97

6 Models 99

6.1 Scale Models (Target Domains, Idealization, and Aptness) 100

6.2 Maps 103

6.3 Blueprints 111

6.4 Program Code and Flowcharts 114

6.5 Computer Models 116

6.6 Features of Models 117

6.7 Models as Cognitive Tools 118

6.8 Further Considerations 120

7 Mental Models 121

7.1 Two Observations 123

7.2 Beyond Internalization 124

7.3 A Mental Model of My House 125

7.4 Chess 131

7.5 Social Contexts 133

7.6 Moral Models 135

7.7 Mental Models and Scientific Understanding 136

7.8 Core and Folk Systems 141

7.9 Conclusion 142

8 Relations between Models 143

8.1 Abstractness 143

8.2 Variants 146

8.3 Metaphorical Transposition 147

8.4 Triangulation 149

8.5 Dissonance 160

9 Other Model-Based Approaches 163

9.1 Models in Psychology 164

9.2 Models in Philosophy of Science 169

9.3 Models in Theoretical Cognitive Science 173

10 The Plausibility of Cognitive Pluralism 179

10.1 A Good Design Strategy for Evolving Smarter Animals 180

10.2 Still a Good Design Strategy for Animals That Learn 181

10.3 The Advantages of Model Proliferation 184

11 The Complementarity of Models and Language 193

11.1 Cognitive Complementarity 194

11.2 Language and the Priority of Models 198

11.3 Two Objections 201

11.4 What Language Adds 205

11.5 Summary 211

III Epistemology, Semantics, Disunity 213

12 Disunities of Knowledge, Science, and Understanding 215

12.1 Visions of Unity and the Problems They Face 216

12.2 Disunity as a Problem 220

12.3 Model-Based Understanding as a Source of Disunity 222

12.4 Scientific Disunity 227

12.5 Irreducibility 235

12.6 Comprehensiveness and Consistency 239

13 Models and Intuition 245

13.1 Discussions of "Intuition" in Psychology 247

13.2 Intuitive and Counterintuitive Judgments 250

13.3 Model Relativity of Intuitiveness 255

13.4 Models, Intuitions, and Expertise 257

13.5 Models and Dispositional Beliefs 258

13.6 Models, Intuition, and Cognitive Illusion 260

14 Cognitive Illusion 261

14.1 Illusions of Inapt Application 262

14.2 Illusions of Unrestricted Assertion 268

14.3 Illusions of Unification 274

14.4 Projective Illusion 278

15 Cognitive Pluralism and Epistemology 283

15.1 What Are Beliefs? 284

15.2 Models as Epistemic Units 289

15.3 Cognitive Pluralism and Theories of Knowledge 296

15.4 A View of the Status of Accounts of Epistemology 305

16 Cognitive Pluralism and Semantics 307

16.1 Models and Semantic Value 309

16.2 Cognitive Pluralism and Other Semantic Theories 310

16.3 The Multiple Lives of Concepts 316

16.4 Concepts without Models 317

16.5 Concepts with Multiple Models 319

16.6 Toward a Schematic Multifactor Account of Concepts 326

16.7 Possible Implications for Disputes about Concepts and Semantics 333

Notes 335

References 339

Index 355

What People are Saying About This

Jay L. Garfield

In a series of impressive books, Steven Horst has been educating the philosophical community about how to think rigorously about cognition. In this volume, he sets out a comprehensive theory of cognitive architecture and cognition, scouting its implications for methodology in cognitive science, for epistemology, and for semantics. The account is meticulously anchored in important empirical work and is defended with rigor, clarity, and elegance of exposition. The pluralism Horst develops is highly original and runs against the grain of much contemporary systematic thought in philosophy of mind today about the structure of the mind. So much the worse for orthodoxy; Horst's view is by far the most compelling and carefully articulated on offer.

David Danks

Horst provides a masterful, comprehensive defense of the idea that almost every part of philosophy changes once we recognize the importance of mental models for our cognition. Anyone working in philosophy of mind, language, or epistemology will need to engage with his ideas and arguments.

From the Publisher

Horst provides a masterful, comprehensive defense of the idea that almost every part of philosophy changes once we recognize the importance of mental models for our cognition. Anyone working in philosophy of mind, language, or epistemology will need to engage with his ideas and arguments.

David Danks , Professor of Philosophy and Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University; author of Unifying the Mind: Cognitive Representations as Graphical Models

In a series of impressive books, Steven Horst has been educating the philosophical community about how to think rigorously about cognition. In this volume, he sets out a comprehensive theory of cognitive architecture and cognition, scouting its implications for methodology in cognitive science, for epistemology, and for semantics. The account is meticulously anchored in important empirical work and is defended with rigor, clarity, and elegance of exposition. The pluralism Horst develops is highly original and runs against the grain of much contemporary systematic thought in philosophy of mind today about the structure of the mind. So much the worse for orthodoxy; Horst's view is by far the most compelling and carefully articulated on offer.

Jay L. Garfield , Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple Professor of Humanities, Yale-NUS College; Doris Silbert Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Philosophy, Smith College

Endorsement

In a series of impressive books, Steven Horst has been educating the philosophical community about how to think rigorously about cognition. In this volume, he sets out a comprehensive theory of cognitive architecture and cognition, scouting its implications for methodology in cognitive science, for epistemology, and for semantics. The account is meticulously anchored in important empirical work and is defended with rigor, clarity, and elegance of exposition. The pluralism Horst develops is highly original and runs against the grain of much contemporary systematic thought in philosophy of mind today about the structure of the mind. So much the worse for orthodoxy; Horst's view is by far the most compelling and carefully articulated on offer.

Jay L. Garfield, Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple Professor of Humanities, Yale-NUS College; Doris Silbert Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Philosophy, Smith College

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