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 ‚ÄúMind as Computation‚ÄĚ have helped put cognitive science on a stronger foundation‚ÄĒone¬†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.

Download PDF of article