HPS Lecture - Mark Sprevak

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Location: 112 Pasquerilla Center

Realism About Cognitive Science

Abstract

This paper starts from a simple puzzle. Realism about X is often glossed as the idea that Xs are mind independent: Xs exist, and have their nature, independently of our beliefs, interests, attitudes, or other mental states. Xs are, in a sense 'out there', getting on with it independently of our mental life. If this is right, how should we understand realism about the mind? Mental processes and states are not mind independent: they don't take place independently of our beliefs, interests, attitudes, or other mental states. Hence, it seems that we cannot be realists about them. Nevertheless, and in line with other areas of philosophy of science, there seems scope for asking the realist question about the posits of cognitive science, even if those posits make up our mental life. Should we be realists about the subpersonal mental representations or computations posited by cognitive science? Are these really 'out there', or are they only projections of the interests and attitudes of scientific theorisers? Unless we state realism differently from above, we have no way to even pose this question. In this paper, I explore the right way to state realism about cognitive science. I introduce different senses of mind-dependence and evaluate their merit to stating realism about cognitive science.