The Hierarchical Correspondence View of Levels: A Case Study in Cognitive Science

Minds and Machines (forthcoming)
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There is a general conception of levels in philosophy which says that the world is arrayed into a hierarchy of levels and that there are different modes of analysis that correspond to each level of this hierarchy, what can be labelled the ‘Hierarchical Correspondence View of Levels” (or HCL). The trouble is that despite its considerable lineage and general status in philosophy of science and metaphysics the HCL has largely escaped analysis in specific domains of inquiry. The goal of this paper is to take up a recent call to domain-specificity by examining the role of the HCL in cognitive science. I argue that the HCL is, in fact, a conception of levels that has been employed in cognitive science and that cognitive scientists should avoid its use where possible. The argument is that the HCL is problematic when applied to cognitive science specifically because it fails to distinguish two important kinds of shifts used when analysing information processing systems: shifts in grain and shifts in analysis. I conclude by proposing a revised version of the HCL which accommodates the distinction.

Author's Profile

Luke Kersten
University of Alberta


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