The Role of Philosophy of Mind in Cognitive Science

Topics: Philosophy of mind, Cognitive science, Mind Pages: 10 (3714 words) Published: December 14, 2012
The Role of Philosophy of Mind in Cognitive Science
For centuries, science had made great effort in our understanding on the external observable world. But during much of this time, there were still many unanswered questions about something seemingly so important to us. That something is the human mind. What is mind? The journey in searching the answer to this question dated back to as early as 400 B.C. with Plato, one of the greatest Greek philosopher. There are a lot of ways to tackle this question; with psychology looking into this question from the perspective of internal mental operations (memory, intelligence, attention etc.), neuroscience attempt to explain mind in term of its underlying brain mechanism (structures and functions of human brain). Computer science compares working of mind to computer (computational perspective). Anthropology studies mental difference in different setting (human thought and human culture). All these disciplines seem to be surrounding one big scope, which is the mind. However, when it comes to studying something as complex as mind, no single perspective is sufficient to provide accurate and precise explanation. Studying mind from any single field is like the story of the blind man and the elephant. Psychologists touching the ears and claim it as a fan, neuroscientists pulling the tail and claim it as a rope, computer scientists knocking the body and claim it as a wall and so on. Therefore, in the mid 1950s, a new field of study which combines all these disciplines in order to get a bigger picture of mind emerged, namely cognitive science (Bogdan, 2010). Being a cognitive science student, I have been taught that cognitive science is a scientific interdisciplinary study of mind. With each discipline contributes its own data, study methodologies, and perspective, the ultimate goal of cognitive science is to combine and fill in the missing pieces in this puzzling puzzle since 400 B.C. However, I came across Bechtel's book, and he stated that "cognitive science is the multidisciplinary scientific study of cognition and its role in intelligent agency. It examines what cognition is, what it does, and how it works" is a statement that seems to be more definitive instead of what cognitive science truly is (Bechtel & Graham, 1999). To Bechtel, cognitive science seems to be more immature than it should be. Nevertheless, in my opinion, as this field of study is relatively new and also the above statement was given in 1999. I believe cognitive science had definitely made a lot of progress for the past decade. With different contribution and roles play by each discipline, cognitive science has been answering a lot of question related with mind. The hallmark of cognitive science is its interdisciplinary approach. There are a total of seven disciplines contributing to the study in cognitive science, namely psychology, linguistics, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, anthropology, learning science and philosophy. Although each has limitations, but they all contribute toward evaluating theories of mind. In this sense, cognitive science is not a unified field of study like each of the disciplines themselves. Instead, a collaborative effort among researchers works in the various fields. Like mentioned earlier, the glue that holds cognitive science together is the topic of mind and, for the most part, the use of scientific methods. However, not all disciplines are using scientific method to collect, to evaluate, and to predict the data. One of the distinctive disciplines would be philosophy. Philosophers are famous for their arguments and thought experiment which are often empirically unverifiable. I will later compare the methodologies of philosophy and cognitive science. Now, I would like to further introduce a little bit more about philosophy and especially, philosophy of mind. Philosophy in its broadest sense is the search of wisdom and knowledge. Being the oldest of all the disciplines in...
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