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Existential Cognition

Computational Minds in the World

While the notion of the mind as information-processor—a kind of computational system—is widely accepted, many scientists and philosophers have assumed that this account of cognition shows that the mind’s operations are characterizable independent of their relationship to the external world. Existential Cognition challenges the internalist view of mind, arguing that intelligence, thought, and action cannot be understood in isolation, but only in interaction with the outside world.

Arguing that the mind is essentially embedded in the external world, Ron McClamrock provides a schema that allows cognitive scientists to address such long-standing problems in artificial intelligence as the "frame" problem and the issue of "bounded" rationality. Extending this schema to cover progress in other studies of behavior, including language, vision, and action, McClamrock reinterprets the importance of the organism/environment distinction. McClamrock also considers the broader philosophical question of the place of mind in the world, particularly with regard to questions of intentionality, subjectivity, and phenomenology.

With implications for philosophy, cognitive and computer science, AI, and psychology, this book synthesizes state-of-the-art work in philosophy and cognitive science on how the mind interacts with the world to produce thoughts, ideas, and actions.

216 pages | 2 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 1995

Cognitive Science: Human and Animal Cognition

Language and Linguistics: Formal Logic and Computational Linguistics

Philosophy: Philosophy of Mind

Table of Contents

Part One - Intertheoretic Considerations
1. Autonomy and Implementation
1.1. Levels and Multiple Realizability
1.2. Deciphering Lower-level Complexity
1.3. Task and Process
1.4. The Pitfall of Overidealization
1.5. Implementation and Context
2. Context, Taxonomy, and Mechanism
2.1. Context-dependence
2.2. The Level-relativity of Context-dependence
2.3. The Possibility of Non-individualism
2.4. Context and Causation
2.5. Fodor’s Rebuttals
2.6. External Mechanisms, Mental Causes
3. Picking Levels
3.1. Higher-level Causation
3.2. Brandon on Levels and Screening Off
3.3. Multiple Realizability and Context-dependence
3.4. Examples and Applications
3.5. Causation at a Distance?
Part Two - Bounding and Embedding
4. The Frame Problems
4.1. Two Problems in One
4.2. Underdetermination, Taxonomy, and Induction
4.3. Overconstraint and the Art of Ignoring
4.4. Strategies and Errors
5. Boundedness and Contingency
5.1. Facing Your Limitations
5.2. Satisficing as Optimizing
5.3. Boundedness without Optimization
5.4. Contingency and the Magic Algorithm
6. Exploiting the Environment
6.1. The Roles of Data
6.2. Effects of Interactivity
6.3. Control in the Environment
6.4. Reactivity
6.5. Enforcement
6.6. The Virtues of Procrastination
6.7. The Uses of Redundancy
6.8. Situated Cues
Part Three - Minds in the World
7. Interactive Decomposition
7.1. Boundedness and Encapsulation
7.2. How much Encapsulation?
7.3. Access and Control
7.4. Components and Skills
7.5. Concrete Application
8. Embedded Language
8.1. A "Just So" Story about Meaning
8.2. Stop Making Sense
8.3. A Last "Grasp": Narrow Content
8.4. Knowing How to Refer
8.5. Pragmatics and Sinn
8.6. Distillation and Activity
9. Interactive Perception
9.1. Perception-as-geometry
9.2. Animate Vision
9.3. "Direct" Perception?
9.4. Combating Illusion
9.5. Distillation Again
Part Four - Philosophical Implications
10. Intentionality and Its Objects
10.1. Varieties of Semantic Impotence
10.2. Revitalizing the Intentional
10.3. Distal and Intentional Causes
10.4. The Semantics of Sensation
10.5. Information and Sensation
10.6. From Symbol-grounding to Subjectivity
11. The Autonomy of Subjectivity
11.1. Nagel’s Point of View
11.2. Lycan’s Responses
11.3. Autonomy Again
11.4. A Middle Ground
12. Existential Cognition
12.1. The Syntax of Consciousness
12.2. Noesis and Noema
12.3. Methodology and "Bracketing"
12.4. Bracketing as Heuristic
12.5. The Existential Turn

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