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And which ones should I actively seek out, to fill a gap in my understanding of things? Interestingly, insofar as these meta-scientific questions have to do with differential value that we place on different items of knowledge, they are also philosophical. Hilary Putnam 4 described this situation as follows Putnam, , p.

Six Challenges to Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology

I have argued that even when the judgments of reasonableness are left tacit, such judgments are presupposed by scientific inquiry. Indeed, judgments of coherence are essential even at the observational level: we have to decide which observations to trust, which scientists to trust — sometimes even which of our memories to trust. The realization that values have a place in meta-theoretical discourse in psychology just as they do in other sciences gives us license to set our sights considerably higher than merely gathering reliable and ample empirical findings with regard to whatever psychological phenomenon that is under investigation.

Can one reasonably hold a theoretical claim in psychology to be true, in the same sense that, say, special relativity is in physics? I think so, and my case in point, which I argued at length elsewhere Edelman, a , b , is the identification of cognition with a class of computations e. It seems to me also that making such claims — as long as they are empirically sound and theoretically pleasing — is the right thing to do methodologically speaking: we can truly keep abreast of the news only if we keep asking after the truth.

In psychology, unlike physics, truth straddles disciplinary boundaries: crucial information on the strength of which a psychological theory may stand or fall can come from another discipline altogether. For instance, findings from neuroscience can lend support to a broad explanatory framework in psychology, such as Bayesian inference Lee and Mumford, or Hebbian learning Caporale and Dan, In the same vein, complexity estimates, arrived at by methods of computer science, that show a certain class of algorithms to be intractable, can doom a corresponding family of psychological theories, as in the case of theories of visual perception and learning that ignore issues of dimensionality Tsotsos, ; Edelman, Such considerations notwithstanding, psychological theories can be surprisingly resilient Greenwald, , Table 1.

My impression is that this happens because too often theories are stated in a conceptually inadequate language, which in turn stems from glossing over interdisciplinary issues. It seems strange that at this time, decades after the disciplines referred to collectively as cognitive science came to be recognized as interrelated, a call for more interdisciplinarity in psychology should still sound like a challenge. Nevertheless, a challenge it is: what may count for a big picture in psychology is likely to span only a few pieces of the great jigsaw puzzle of how the mind works.

It is important to note that the need for conceptual breadth exists not just in trying to understand how various cognitive tasks are addressed, but also at the more basic level of grasping the nature of the tasks themselves.

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Thus, neglecting to question the common assumption that the purpose of vision is to reconstruct the geometrical layout of the environment can lead an entire field on a decades-long wild goose chase Sloman, ; Edelman, , which ends with a realization that vision and the rest of cognition in particular, motor control are intimately interrelated and must therefore fit within the same overarching psychological theory. By acknowledging and pondering the importance of interdisciplinarity in theoretical psychology, we can better appreciate the role of philosophy in opening up for us a whole new set of dimensions of conceptual breadth.

The contribution of philosophical thinking to psychology will be particularly effective if such thinking avoids being parochial in its own domain. We must, therefore, encourage work that connects those philosophical traditions to one another e. Metzinger, , p. The traditionally strong humanistic undercurrents in philosophy Putnam, , 7 the growing interest among cognitive psychologists in aesthetics e.

If theoretical thinkers in science, philosophy, and the humanities are all concerned with what we humans and other animals are, they should also be interested in understanding how we got to be this way. The short answer to this latter question is, of course, evolution.

Specific examples that come to mind have to do with individual learning Lehmann et al. Just as the sui generis status of language in cognitive science has given way to a realization that it might be amenable to explanation within the same theoretical framework as the rest of cognition, so did consciousness research return into the fold of psychology after a century-long exile. The greatest challenge in this domain seems to lie in the project of naturalizing phenomenology Petitot et al.

As one may expect, progress in this undertaking can only be expected through a sustained interdisciplinary effort rooted in philosophy and informed by psychology, neuroscience, mathematics, and computer science Dennett, ; Metzinger, ; Rudrauf et al. In this effort, the role of philosophy qua the art of argument and persuasion is absolutely critical. A good explanation of phenomenal awareness — one that is both true in the sense of section Truth and Consequences and intuitively plausible — is bound to be in some sense reductive, even if it posits phenomenality as an emergent property Dennett, , p.

As McCulloch showed us always leading by example , we need not be afraid of metaphysics.

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Admittedly, by explicitly allowing metaphysics into our discourse for instance, the metaphysics of embodiment or of reality; Edelman, a , b , we face the challenge of separating idle speculation from serious ideas — but the very same challenge is, of course, the first order of business in any respectable inquiry, be it scientific or philosophical.

This brings us back to our theme: the relationship between science and philosophy and the challenges that they face together, summarized perfectly by Putnam , p.


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Q: What is the proper role of philosophy in relation to psychology, artificial intelligence, and the neurosciences? A: To be a gadfly, of course. Seriously, … the most exciting task of philosophy of science is to combine clarification of the concepts of science with reflection on the implication of scientific theories, both proposed theories and theories that are not considered to be confirmed, for great metaphysical issues.

Bouchard, D. Solving the UG problem. Biolinguistics 6, 1— Brockman, J. The Third Culture. Caporale, N. Spike timing-dependent plasticity: a Hebbian learning rule. Chalmers, D. Facing up to the problem of consciousness. Chater, N. Language acquisition meets language evolution. Chomsky, N. The Generative Enterprise Revisited. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. Pubmed Abstract Pubmed Full Text. Crick, F.

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Towards a neurobiological theory of consciousness. Culicover, P. Simpler Syntax. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Danchin, E. Inclusive heritability: combining genetic and non-genetic information to study animal behavior and culture. Oikos , — CrossRef Full Text. De Caro, M. De Caro, and D. Dennett, D. New York: Simon and Schuster. Heterophenomenology explained. Dobzhansky, T. Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.

Edelman, S. On learning to recognize 3D objects from examples.

Twenty Essays on Theoretical Issues

IEEE Trans. Pattern Anal. New York: Oxford University Press. On the nature of minds, or: truth and consequences. Dickinson, A. Leonardis, B. Schiele, and M. Tarr Cambridge: Cambridge University Press , 69— The metaphysics of embodiment. Regarding reality: some consequences of two incapacities. Fekete, T.

The Parts of an Argument

Towards a computational theory of experience. Edelman, T. Fekete, and N. Zach Amsterdam: John Benjamins , 95— Greenwald, A. There is nothing so theoretical as a good method. Jablonka, E. Evolution in four dimensions book precis. Brain Sci. James, W.

How to Paint the Big Picture

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