Culture and Cognitive Science

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2022)
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Human behavior and thought often exhibit a familiar pattern of within group similarity and between group difference. Many of these patterns are attributed to cultural differences. For much of the history of its investigation into behavior and thought, however, cognitive science has been disproportionately focused on uncovering and explaining the more universal features of human minds—or the universal features of minds in general. This entry charts out the ways in which this has changed over recent decades. It sketches the motivation behind the cultural turn in cognitive science, and situates some of its central findings with respect to the questions that animate it and the debates that it has inspired. Woven throughout the entry are examples of how the cognitive science of culture, and especially its elevated concern with different forms of diversity and variation, continues to influence and be influenced by philosophers. One cluster of philosophical work falls within the traditional subject matter of philosophy of science, in this case of the cognitive and social sciences. Philosophers have analyzed and assessed the methods and evidence central to the scientific study of cognition and culture, and have offered conceptual scrutiny, clarification, and synthesis. Research in a second vein sees philosophers themselves contributing more directly to cognitive scientific projects, (co)constructing theories, helping build computational models, even gathering empirical data. A third kind of work is naturalistic philosophy or philosophy of nature, wherein philosophers seek to use results from the cognitive science of culture to inform or transform debates over long-standing philosophical questions, including questions about the nature of philosophy and philosophical methodology itself.

Author Profiles

Daniel Kelly
Purdue University


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