Historical Roots of Cognitive Science

Historical Roots of Cognitive Science : The Rise of a Cognitive Theory of Perception from Antiquity to the Nineteenth Century

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Cognitive science, in Howard Gardner's words, has a relatively short history but a very long past. While its short history has been the subject of quite a few studies published in recent years, the current book focuses instead on its very long past. It explores the emergence of the conceptual framework that was necessary to make the rise of modem cognitive science possible in the first place. Over the long course of the history of the theory of perception and of cognition, various conceptual breakthroughs can be discerned that have contributed significantly to the conception of the mind as a physical symbol system with intricate representational capacities and unimaginably rich computational resources. In historical retrospect such conceptual transitions-seemingly sudden and unannounced-are typically foreshadowed in the course of enduring research programs that serve as slowly developing theoretical con- straint structures gradually narrowing down the apparent solution space for the scientific problems at hand. Ultimately the fundamental problem is either resolved to the satisfaction of the majority of researchers in the area of investigation, or else-and much more commonly-one or more of the major theoretical constraints is abandoned or radically modified, giving way to entirely new theoretical vistas. In the history of the theory of perception this process can be witnessed at vari- ous important junctures.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 252 pages
  • 157.48 x 236.22 x 25.4mm | 544.31g
  • Dordrecht, Netherlands
  • English
  • 1989 ed.
  • XX, 252 p.
  • 0792303490
  • 9780792303497

Table of contents

I. Introduction.- II. Reconstruction of the history of medieval and (post-) Cartesian theories of perception in terms of the negative heuristics of their respective research programs. Basic epistemological contrasts.- III. The formation of competing optical traditions in early and late antiquity.- (1) The various `optical' research traditions in early and late antiquity represent rival research programs into the theory of visual perception.- (2) The Aristotelian theory of vision.- (3) The Stoic-Galenic tradition.- (4) The geometrical tradition.- IV. The Identity Postulate at work in various research programs in the theory of vision during late antiquity and during the Arab and European Middle Ages.- (1) The Identity Postulate at work in the Stoic-Galenic theory of vision.- (2) The Identity Postulate at work in the geometrical tradition in the theory of vision.- (3) The Identity Postulate at work in Alhazen's theory of vision.- (4) The Identity Postulate reinforced by the Baconian-Alhazenian synthesis in optical theory. Internal explanations facilitated by the proposed rational reconstruction.- (5) The internal disintegration of the research program defined by the Identity Postulate during the 16th century.- V. The mathematization of physics and the mechanization of the world-picture gradually prepared in the development of medieval optics rather than in that of terrestrial or celestial mechanics.- VI. Mechanicism and the rise of an information theory of perception. A naturalistic reconstruction of (post-) Cartesian epistemology.- (1) Keplerian dioptrics, Cartesian mechanicism, and the rise of justificationist methodologies.- (2) Complete demonstration in science impossible. The need of conjectural theories affirmed.- (3) Ambivalence towards any alleged sources of `immediate' knowledge. Epistemology founded on an empirical theory of the senses and the mind.- (4) The rise of an information theory of perception. Internal tensions of the representationist research program.- (5) The representationist research program.- (5.1) Descartes against the identity theory of perception. The necessity of an information theory of perception.- (5.2) Two radical consequences of the new theory of perception.- (5.3) The negative heuristic of the Cartesian research program. Dualism of thought and sense. Descartes' information theory not a cognitive theory of perception.- (6) Malebranche and the Cartesian research program into optical epistemology.- (6.1) Ambiguities in Descartes' theory of sensory judgment. Lack of a genuine (cognitive) theory of information processing.- (6.2) Malebranche's theory of visual distance discrimination and of apparent magnitude.- (6.3) Regis contra Malebranche's information theory of perception. Corroborated empirical excess content of the Cartesian program according to Malebranche.- (6.4) Tensions between the positive and the negative heuristic of the Cartesian research program. The negative heuristic at work in Malebranche's theorizing.- (6.5) Rational reconstruction of Malebranche's occasionalism. Divine intervention and the computer analogy.- (7) Conclusion.- VII. Epistemological issues underlying the nineteenth century controversies in physiological optics. The Helmholtzian Program.- (1) The 18th century. Rationalist and empiricist developments. Cross-fertilizations of originally competing programs.- (2) The Helmholtzian research program into the theory of perception. The true logic of discovery revealed by rational reconstruction of the grand movement of intellectual history rather than by `faithful' intellectual biographies.- (3) The relevance of German Romanticism to the Helmholtzian program.- (4) Helmholtz's theory of subliminal cognitive activity.- (5) Helmholtz's research program contrasted with competing epistemological programs.- VIII. The interplay between philosophy and physiology in Helmholtz's view.- (1) Helmholtz's conception of philosophy in historical perspective.- (2) Muller's Principle of Specific Sense Energies.- (3) Helmholtz's theory of color vision.- (4) Helmholtz's theory of physiological acoustics.- (5) The philosophical significance of the Principle of Specific Sense Energies.- IX. Helmholtz's theory of the perception of space.- (1) Sensation and perception.- (2) The general idea of space and perceptual localization.- (3) The intuitionist theories of Muller and Hering.- (4) Helmholtz's empirical theory of perception.- (5) Methodological arguments in defense of the empirical theory of perception.- (6) The philosophical significance of the intuitionist-empiricist controversy.- (7) The general idea of space.- X. Helmholtz's theory of unconscious inferences.- (1) The need of an empirical non-introspective psychology.- (2) Helmholtz's theory not a mechanistic theory, but a truly cognitive theory of information processing.- (3) Helmholtz's theory of a continuum of cognitive functions beyond the edge of consciousness and beyond the grasp of verbal articulation.- (4) Helmholtz's theory dogmatically dismissed by the twentieth century ban on psychologism. Yet his cognitive theory superior as compared to traditional alternatives.- (5) The synthetic functions of subconscious mental operations according to 19th and 20th century theoretical developments. The problem of realism.- XI. The epistemological outcome of Helmholtz's naturalism. Hypothetical realism.- (1) Helmholtz's novel theory of causality in its relation to Kant, Reid and traditional empiricism.- (2) Lack of an adequate psychology. Weaknesses of Helmholtz's theory.- List of abbreviations.
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