The future of cognitive science is pluralistic, but what does that mean?

Lisa Osbeck, Saulo de Freitas Araujo


Abstract: We imagine the future of cognitive science by first considering its past, which shows remarkable transformation from a field that, although interdisciplinary, was initially marked by a narrow set of assumptions concerning its subject matter. In the last decades, multiple alternative frameworks with radically different ontological and epistemic commitments (e.g., situated cognition, embodied cognition, extended mind) found broad support. We address the question of how to understand these changes, noting as logical alternatives that (1) newer approaches are not properly cognitive; (2) that newer approaches are cognitive but not science; and (3) that cognitive science has become pluralistic. We endorse the third position and venture to guess that the future of cognitive science is also pluralistic. We are left, however, with the question of what this means. After noting the polysemous nature of the term “pluralism”, we attempt to add clarity by distinguishing three forms: ontological, epistemic, and ethical. We then consider what each form might imply for the future of cognitive science.

Keywords: Cognitive Science; Pluralism; Relativism; History of Science; Philosophy of Science


Il futuro della scienza cognitiva è pluralista, ma che vuol dire?

Riassunto: Pensiamo al futuro della scienza cognitiva in primo luogo considerando il suo passato, il quale è notevolmente cambiato rispetto al presente. Per quanto si proponesse come un campo di studi interdisciplinari, la scienza cognitiva delle origini era caratterizzata da un insieme ristretto di assunzioni riguardanti il proprio oggetto. Negli ultimi decenni hanno trovato supporto diverse cornici teoriche in reciproca competizione e con impegni ontologici ed epistemologici radicalmente differenti (si pensi, per esempio, alla cognizione situata, alla cognizione incarnata, alla mente estesa). Proveremo a dare risposta alla domanda su come intendere questi cambiamenti, prendendo atto che ci troviamo di fronte a una serie di posizioni che sono logicamente alternative fra loro: (1) gli approcci più recenti non sono propriamente cognitivi; (2) oppure che gli approcci più recenti sono cognitivi, ma non scientifici; (3) la scienza cognitiva è diventata pluralista. Noi crediamo che la terza posizione sia corretta e scommettiamo su un futuro della scienza cognitiva che sia anche pluralista. Resta aperto, tuttavia, il problema di cosa questo significhi. Dopo aver preso atto della natura polisemica del termine “pluralismo”, cercheremo di far chiarezza distinguendo tre forme di pluralismo: ontologico, epistemico, ed etico. Considereremo quindi ciò che ciascuna può comportare per il futuro della scienza cognitiva.

Parole chiave: Scienza cognitiva; Pluralismo; Relativismo; Storia della scienza; Filosofia della scienza

Parole chiave

Cognitive Science; Pluralism; Relativism; History of Science; Philosophy of Science

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