What Are We Talking About When We Talk About Cognition?: Human, cybernetic, and phylogenetic conceptual schemes

JOLMA - The Journal for the Philosophy of Language, Mind, and the Arts 4 (2):149-162 (2023)
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This paper outlines three broad conceptual schemes currently in play in the sciences concerned with explaining cognitive abilities. One is the anthropocentric scheme – human cognition – that dominated our thinking about cognition until very recently. Another is the cybernetic-computational scheme – cybernetic cognition – rooted in cognitive science and flourishing in such fields as artificial intelligence, computational neuroscience, and biocybernetics. The third is an evolutionary biological scheme – phylogenetic cognition – that conceptualizes cognition in terms of the phylogeny-based approach we take to all other traits of evolved organisms. It shows how these conceptions ground different research questions and methods, and how their relationship is still in flux.

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Carrie Figdor
University of Iowa


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