Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Adams and Aizawa's Stipulation

In the final subsection I argue that cognitive scientists don’t care about Adams and Aizawa’s stipulation. There is empirical research in cognitive neuroscience that does not respect the stipulation, therefore Adams and Aizawa ought to give it up.
Now, A&A have been pretty careful to make explicit that we are not defining cognition in terms of bearing non-derived content.  There was, however, one point in The Bounds of Cognition where we slipped a little.  (See discussion here.)  Rather than stipulating that cognitive processing involve non-derived representations, we hypothesize that cognitive processes involve non-derived representations.  In this, we think we are following the views of cognitivist cognitive psychologists.  So, Menary, it seems to me, fashions this uncharitable interpretation, then bludgeons us with it.
I take it that Dehaene and colleagues are doing empirical research on cognition and yet if we are to take Adams and Aizawa’s underived content condition seriously they cannot be. This seems to me to be decisive. Scientists often ignore the strictures and demarcations laid down a priori by philosophers. Philosophers, such as Adams and Aizawa, may think that they are providing a theory of underived content for cognitive scientists (2001, p. 50), yet cognitive scientists may not be at all interested in these theories because their work does not need them, or they may not be working only with representations with underived content. (Menary, 2010).
But, of course, scientists don't care about the stipulations of philosophers.  They often don't care about anything by philosophers.  But, that's not what we are up to.  The idea is that there is this scientific tradition of cognitivism that postulates mental representations with non-derived content.  This tradition is apparently being challenged by other scientists (and philosophers).  There are scientists on both sides of this issue, so let's cut to the chase and try to figure out which scientific theory is correct

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