Becoming cognitive science

Goldstone, R. L. (2019).  Becoming cognitive science.  Topics in Cognitive Science, 1-12.

Cognitive science continues to make a compelling case for having a coherent, unique, and fundamental subject of inquiry: What is the nature of minds, where do they come from, and how do they work? Central to this inquiry is the notion of agents that have goals, one of which is their own persistence, who use dynamically constructed knowledge to act in the world to achieve those goals. An agentive perspective explains why a special class of systems have a cluster of co-occurring capacities that enable them to exhibit adaptive behavior in a complex environment: perception, attention, memory, representation, planning, and communication. As an intellectual endeavor, cognitive science may not have achieved a hard core of uncontested assumptions that Lakatos (1978) identifies as emblematic of a successful research program, but there are alternative conceptions according to which cognitive science has been successful. First, challenges of the early, core tenet of ā€œMind as Computationā€ have helped put cognitive science on a stronger foundationā€”one that incorporates relations between minds and their environments. Second, even if a full cross-disciplinary theoretic consensus is elusive, cognitive science can inspire distant, deep, and transformative connections between pairs of fields. To be intellectually vital, cognitive science need not resemble a traditional discipline with its associated insularity and unchallenged assumptions. Instead, there is strength and resilience in the diverse perspectives and methods that cognitive science assembles together. This interdisciplinary enterprise is fragile and perhaps inherently unstable, as the looming absorption of cognitive science into psychology shows. Still, for many researchers, the excitement and benefits of triangulating on the nature of minds by integrating diverse cases cannot be secured by a stable discipline with an uncontested core of assumptions.

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