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1.6: Plan of Action

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  • A popular title for surveys of cognitive science is What is cognitive science? (Lepore & Pylyshyn, 1999; von Eckardt, 1995). Because this one is taken, a different title is used for the current book. But steering the reader towards an answer to this excellent question is the primary purpose of the current manuscript.

    Answering the question What is cognitive science? resulted in the current book being organized around two central themes. One is to introduce key ideas at the foundations of three different schools of thought: classical cognitive science, connectionist cognitive science, and embodied cognitive science. A second is to examine these ideas to see whether these three “flavours” of cognitive science can be unified. As a result, this book is presented in two main parts.

    The purpose of Part I is to examine the foundations of the three schools of cognitive science. It begins in Chapter 2, with an overview of the need to investigate cognitive agents at multiple levels. These levels are used to provide a framework for considering potential relationships between schools of cognitive science. Each of these schools is also introduced in Part I. I discuss classical cognitive science in Chapter 3, connectionist cognitive science in Chapter 4, and embodied cognitive science in Chapter 5.

    With the foundations of the three different versions of cognitive science laid out in Part I, in Part II, I turn to a discussion of a variety of topics within cognitive science. The purpose of these discussions is to seek points of either contention or convergence amongst the different schools of thought.

    The theme of Part II is that the key area of disagreement amongst classical, connectionist, and embodied cognitive science is the nature of the cognitive architecture. However, this provides an opportunity to reflect on the technical details of the architecture as the potential for a unified cognitive science. This is because the properties of the architecture—regardless of the school of thought—are at best vaguely defined. For instance, Searle (1992, p. 15) has observed that “‘intelligence,’ ‘intelligent behavior,’ ‘cognition’ and ‘information processing,’ for example are not precisely defined notions. Even more amazingly, a lot of very technically sounding notions are poorly defined—notions such as ‘computer,’ ‘computation,’ ‘program,’ and ‘symbol’” (Searle, 1992, p. 15).

    In Part II, I also present a wide range of topics that permit the different schools of cognitive science to make contact. It is hoped that my treatment of these topics will show how the competing visions of the different schools of thought can be coordinated in a research program that attempts to specify an architecture of cognition inspired by all three schools.

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