Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Calvo on the Goals of Cognitive Science

In fact, it has become somewhat inescapable to accept that a final understanding of human intelligence will be embodied and embedded. ... From this perspective, plants and animals, as open systems coupled with their environments, are on a par. The target is the scientific understanding of the continuous interplay of both animals and plants in relation to the environmental contingencies that impinge upon them.  (Garzon, 2007, p. 209).
First of all, I'm fine with saying that plants and animals are equally open systems coupled with their environments.  Leibniz was wrong to maintain that they are "windowless" monads. 

Second, there is a bit more room for debate, it seems to me, when it comes to "the target of scientific understanding".  Maybe one wants to know about the continuous interplay of organisms and their environment, but, then again, maybe one thinks that animal behavior is the product of certain sorts of mechanisms that one does not find in plants, and that among these mechanisms is a body of linguistic competence, and maybe one wants to know what constitutes this competence.  Maybe one does not really care about the continuous interplay of animals and plants with their environment.  Maybe one thinks that behavior of this sort is a kind of hodge podge of lots of different factors that don't really form all that coherent a whole.  Maybe, that is, one takes a view like Chomsky's articulated in the early pages of Aspects of the Theory of Syntax.

Here, it seems to me, is one place where the new embodied and embedded stuff seems to have understated the differences it has with cognitivism on this score.

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