Distributed Cognition and the Task of Science

Social Studies of Science 37 (2):297--310 (2007)
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This paper gives a characterization of distributed cognition (d-cog) and explores ways that the framework might be applied in studies of science. I argue that a system can only be given a d-cog description if it is thought of as performing a task. Turning our attention to science, we can try to give a global d-cog account of science or local d-cog accounts of particular scientific projects. Several accounts of science can be seen as global d-cog accounts: Robert Merton's sociology of scientific norms, Philip Kitcher's 20th-century account of cognitive labor, and Kitcher's 21st-century notion of well-ordered science. Problems that arise for them arise just because of the way that they attribute a function to science. The paper concludes by considering local d-cog accounts. Here, too, the task is the crux of the matter.

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P. D. Magnus
State University of New York, Albany


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