Cognition

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Bullo, Giorgio (14. Jun 2019, within the course "Odyssey of Philosophy and Information", facilitated by J.M.Díaz at HM)

[NOTE OF THE FACILITATOR: 
(1) The comments of the facilitator will be edited using this style, brackets, 8 pt, color change. These will be introduced in between your own text to discuss and further co-elaborate the content. Whenever the authors consider to have addressed the issue, they can simply remove the comment
(2) Simple corrections, corresponding to quite obvious missteps or disalignment with editorial style guidelines, are directly corrected, marking the involved characters in red in order to let the author know what was changed. The authors can turn it into black if they agree upon] 

NOTE of the AUTHOR (in interaction with the facilitator and colleagues): these are edited using this style, no-brackets, 8 pt, this color. 

[Dear Giorgio,
I like the orientation, and the way you start, trying to set up a base line for the understanding of cognition based on reputed definitions and etymology.
In virtue of the length you'll need adding an ABSTRACT, as indicated in the guidelines. Regarding the citation styles, please use APA style.

Cognition

The definition of cognition proposed by the Oxford Dictionary is the expression of the nowadays common understanding of cognition:
“The mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.” [9]
In the definition is outlined that cognition is characterized by two important words: ‘mental’ and ‘process’. Later in the document a better analysis of the mental processes will be provided.
however, It is also possible to catch a different shade of the term looking at its etymology:

·       …from Latin cognitionem (nominative cognition) “a getting to know, acquaintance, knowledge,” noun of action from past participle stem of cognoscere “to get to know, recognize,” from assimilated form of com “together” (see co-) gnoscere “to know”, from PIE root *gno- “to know”. In the 17c the meaning was extended to include perception and sensation. [8]

·       The word cognition comes from the Latin verb cognosco (con, 'with', and gnōscō, 'know'; itself a cognate of the Greek verb γι(γ)νώσκω, gi(g)nόsko, meaning 'I know, perceive'), meaning 'to conceptualize' or 'to recognize' [12]

From the etymology and the translations of the Latin and Greek words (to get to know, recognize), it is revealed that cognition not only  means process, but it has been historically seen also as a product, provided by what is external to the subject. This second definition offers the chance to analyze the different meanings that the concept of cognition can have, especially those in the past when the idea of cognition as a mental process wasn’t yet developed. In the ages of the ancient Greeks, the theories behind the process of the perception of reality were the same according to philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle, even though they were emblems of two different doctrines (Idealism and Empiricism). According to their theories, they participated to the manifestation of the object and they consecutively got the knowledge (LINK GLOSSARIUM intended as classical epistemologic model of "Knowledge"; [11]) directly from it. So, with this idea, one can state that there is an ‘identity’ between the object and the image that the subject has of the object. Thus, saying that with Wittgenstein’s words: “mutual relations between parts of the object correspond to mutual relations between elements of the image” [14]. There is a direct map between the image of an object and the object.
The maximum expression of this conception of cognition can be found in Epicurus [3]:

One must not forget that the production of images is simultaneous with the thought;[…] Every conception, every sensible perception which bears upon the form or the other attributes of these images, is only the same form of the solid perceived directly, either in virtue of a sort of actual and continued condensation of the image, or in consequence of the traces which it has left in us.

From this little extract of Epicurus’ scripts, it appears clear how for him cognition is not a mental process but instead a product received from outside (“production of images is simultaneous with the thought”, “traces which it has left in us”) and also that the features of an external object are “perceived directly” from it.
However, the concept of mental process was not unknown to the ancients, indeed, it was identified with the word ‘nous’ ([13]: Borrowed from Ancient Greek νοῦς (noûs) or νόος (nóos, “mind”)). 'Nous' was intended as the rational thinking, (understanding, from latin “intellectus”) aimed at verifying and proving the third component of the definition of knowledge cited above (Knowledge): being justified in believing that the object we acknowledge is true [13]. As it will be analyzed further on in this article, nous as mental process is only a limited part of the actual idea of cognition.

While in the modern ages cognition was consolidated as a mental process, the direct relation between object and subject is still an open question. As a matter of facts, there was a strong revolution during the 17th and 18th century, with Descartes and Kant. In his “Discourse on Method”, Descartes [2] elaborated the doctrine of skepticism, now considered as the start of modern philosophy [6]. Thereafter the manifestation of the objects became not so obviously related with the object itself, on the contrary, that relation was discredited. The main problem raised was that awareness of an object is not a guarantee of true knowledge. With Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” [5] came a reversal conception of cognition. Trying to solve the problem raised by Descartes, Kant shifted the attention from the object to the subject. He stated that the perceived reality is constrained and imposed by “a priori” categories that do not  allow the human beings to know the object itself, (“noumenon”) but only its (subjective) manifestation, the “phenomenon”. Thus, the human is no longer a subject that directly gets the knowledge from the reality, but he has his own reality constrained from a priori concepts (first of all, space and time), in this way the subject is who defines reality. Hence, the cognition assumes a different scope. With this conception the traditional knowledge (concerning the things as themselves) is denied.
Even though this new view of cognition suggests that there is an elaboration of the mind, it has to be clear that Kant and his contemporaries didn’t consider  cognition as a mental process, they were still trying to find out whether knowledge was acquired or innate. However, Kant already developed some elements for the creation of that idea of cognition, because he introduced the judging faculty, a faculty operating according to a priori principles. Indeed, whether emotional or rational, judgment is nowadays considered as a very important feature of cognition.

Cognition as Mental Process and Cognitive Science

As already mentioned, the ancient thinkers already had an idea of mental processes and one of their precursor was Aristotle with his interest in the functioning of the mind. But these processes (rational thinking, perception and memory) were only a part of what is nowadays considered as congnition. A very big step forward was represented by the Theory of Evolution by Charles Darwin. This theory introduced the idea of cognition as an adaptive faculty and stated that as knowledge strongly depends on the environment, the first has to change in order to guarantee the survival. Therefore, there was a new framework in support of cognition as mental process. It can be seen as an evolutionary process meant to adapt the knowledge to the environments. This fact seemed to discredit the belief that knowledge is innate. Since the beginning of Psychology in the 19th century and the attraction for the human mind, a lot of experiments have been conducted with the aim of discover which processes (cognitive processes) can affect the knowledge. One of the first psychologist in the cognitive area was Wilhelm Wundt (1832–1920), who focused on introspection and inner feelings. Even though he was a precursor of the studies on cognition and his contribution is not minimal, his methods are now considered subjective and not reliable. Hermann Ebbinghaus (1850–1909) conducted studies on the memory, creating experiments with nonexistent words. His aim was to eliminate the influence of pre-existing experience. Mary Whiton Calkins (1863–1930) worked on the memory capacity, basing her study on the analysis and conclusion of the mentioned Ebbinghaus.
A very important figure for the beginning of the studies of cognition was William James (1842–1910) who chose to focus on every day human learning experiences and his contributions are in cognitive processes such as perception, memory, reasoning and attention.

During the first 20th century a psychological movement called behaviorism started. The scientists adherent to the behaviorism thought that the only important thing to analyze in an individual was the manifested behavior, leaving out of the analysis the mental processes. For them the mind was a black box and what mattered for the analysis was how the person reacted to a stimulus, that is why this movement is also called “Psychology S-R”, stimulus-response. Later Edward Tolman, another member of the movement, brought some innovation in that method. He renovated the idea that the mind has to be considered as a black box and he is credited with having been the first to formulate the concept of the intervening variable [7]: something not directly noticeable from the outside behavior but that mediates the link between the stimulus and the response. His paper of 1948 about cognitive maps brought the attention on how mental schemes were created by rats for spatial environment cognition and how different learning processes brought to different behaviors. The point was that humans, as rats, create cognitive maps. All of this  introduced the possibility to further analyze the dynamics of the mind.
Besides the effort of Tolman and other psychologists that were working in the same direction creating consciousness about cognitive processes, of Noam Chomsky with his studies on language and the first studies on calculators and artificial intellifence, the main change for cognitive science was after the publication of “A Mathematical Theory of Communication” of Claude E. Shannon  in 1948. The information processing was what finally unlocked the door for the cognitivism movement and the complete awareness of cognition as mental process.

Cognition, Information and Artificial Intelligence

Shannon’s “information theory” was the first effort aimed at demonstrating that the information is a scientific entity quantifiable with formulas and numbers. In this way there was a revolution, first in the communication systems, and then in any automatized system, because of the ability to process information with calculators. With the help of improving technologies and enough computational power the scientists started to work on artificial intelligence. The main idea was to elaborate information with a sequence of functions. The first neural networks are born in the early 50s trying to simulate the brain structure, made of neurons. Mathematically speaking, the representation of these first networks is a convolution of functions. In the end the Shannon’s “information theory” was used also by psychologists. Shannon wasn’t enthusiast about the informal usage of its theory, nonetheless this was the environment in which the Psychology school of Cognitivism was defined. Even though the Psychology school of Cognitivism was not a proper school because of all the differences between procedures, methods and models of the members, there were important common elements: the interest in the inner mental events of the subject and the conception of the subject as constructor of the own representation of the world. Cognitivism can be descripted as the movement that studies mental processes considering them as processes of elaboration of the information.
The main cognitivism’s theories are HIP (Human Information Processing), ecological cognitivism and connectivism. While the first one follows the structure of the first artificial intelligence, thinking at the cognition as a sequence functions that process information, the latter, recently developed, states that the mind’s architecture is structured in a more complex network model of elaboration units. The knowledge is no longer represented by one or more consecutively processes, but rather by activation schemes between the elaboration units. In this way the knowledge is distributed on the network; for this reason people speak about ‘parallel distribution’. This model are able to represent the feedback systems that intervene during the information processing because of the already acquired knowledge of a subject, clearly taking into account the considerations about Cybernetics made in the 1940s. Nowadays, the network seems to be the right architecture to apply for the comprehension of cognition processes. The network, hence the connections between objects, seem to be very important for the knowledge that we have of the world, starting from the atomic material structure, through the brain one, till the connection between galaxy. The same can be applied to human society and relationships. Even when time, intended as people commonly perceive it, loses of significance in the physics theory of relativity or in the quantum mechanics, the interconnections, proper of a network, still have meaning.

Today the effort of understanding how cognition works is faced by many different research fields such as linguistics, neuroscience, psychiatry, psychology, education, philosophy, anthropology, biology, systemics, logic, and computer science. All the results of these researches are synthetized in the already mentioned cognitive science.
Although, the philosophical meaning of cognition explained in the first part of this paper is still not solved and it could may never be. Science has a really good knowledge of cognition and its mechanism, even though the mind is still something obscure for us. Artificial intelligence is growing fast with the overall goal of create artificial machines that can reproduce the human thinking, with a comparable cognition of the world. But, even if the improvements are very impressive, the following quote is what only 2 years ago Pierre Levy think about it [10]:

Nowadays neural network simulation “is enough to model roughly animal cognition (every animal species has neurons) but it is not refined enough to model human cognition. The difference between animal cognition and human cognition is the reflexive thinking that comes from language, which adds a layer of semantic addressing on top of neural connectivity. [And then he adds] Speech production and understanding is an innate property of individual human brains. But as humanity is a social species, language is a property of human societies. Languages are conventional, shared by members of the same culture and learned by social contact. In human cognition, the categories that organize perception, action, memory and learning are expressed linguistically so they may be reflected upon and shared in conversations.”

[If you make a literal quotation you should indicate the page number. 
]

Language seems to be crucial for our understanding. And now, to return to the philosophical analysis of cognition and remark some limits of it, let’s analyze another citation of Wittgenstein [14]:

(the following numbers into the square brackets indicate the original section of the book 14)

[In order to do that using APA style you can do the following: 
(i) above you should state "... Wittgenstein (1961):...
(ii) Then after each literal quotation, for instante, right below "... of my world." (ibid: §5.6)
(iii) indent the quotation if it is going to be in an standing alone paragraph. If it is embedded in a larger paragraph, do not indent.
]

[5.6] The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.

Taking the representation of Gaia Barbieri [4], given that the world is the totality of facts, the language is the totality of propositions that means facts. Propositions are facts of the world themselves, but with the feature that they can refer to other facts. But, in order to do that the propositions and the referred facts must have the same logic structure that relates the objects in that facts and objects that mean the atomic facts. The logic pervades the world but cannot go beyond the world. The language correspond to the thinking and the thinking is the logic image of the world. Everything I can say and think is about the facts of the world and I cannot access to a world that is not a reflection of a logic image of my thinking/language.

Again Wittgenstein:

[5.62] (…) That the world is my world, shows itself in the fact that the limits of the language (the language which I understand) mean the limits of my world.

[5.63] I am my world. (The microcosm.)

Concluding, nowadays, for humanity, the cognition still has many limitations, however the main efforts to resolve them, as for the past century, are bringing on in science, trying to understand how it physically works.

Main Considered Cognitive Processes

Taking up the Oxford dictionary definition of cognition, it’s possible to expand it saying that cognition is the ability to process information and generates knowledge through a complex network of mental processes like learning, attention, memory, language, reasoning, decision making, etc., which are all based on perception and experience.
Some few considerations on the cognition processes [1]:

·       ATTENTION AS A COGNITIVE PROCESS: It has been considered a mechanism that controls and regulates the rest of the cognitive processes: from perception (we need attention to be able to pay attention to the stimuli that don't reach our senses) to learning and complex reasoning.

·       MEMORY AS A COGNITIVE PROCESS: Memory is the cognitive function that allows us to code, store, and recover information from the past. Memory is a basic process for learning, as it is what allows us to create a sense of identity. There are many types of memory. One important thing to note about memory is what was initially discovered by F.C. Barlett, that is the human memory is not a storage, but rather a construction of what happened that results in a reinterpretation of the individual, depending on the individual information processing.

·       PERCEPTION AS A COGNITIVE PROCESS: The perception is made by all the well-known senses (sight, tact, hearing ect.), but also by less-known senses, like propioception (the unconscious cognition of the space in which we are immerse) and interoception (perception of feelings of the body, like being hungry and thirsty, or ansious ect). When the stimuli is received, the information are processed fast creating new memory.

·       LANGUAGE AS A COGNITIVE PROCESS: Language is the ability to express our thoughts and feelings through spoken word. Language and thought are developed together and are closely related, they mutually influence each other.

·       THOUGHT AS A COGNITIVE PROCESS: Thought is fundamental for all cognitive processes. It allows us to integrate the informations that we've received and to establish relationships between events and knowledge. To do this, it uses reasoning, synthesis, and problem solving.

·       LEARNING AS A COGNITIVE PROCESS: Learning is the cognitive process that changes our knowledge giving us new abilities. Learning includes things as diverse as behaviors or habits, like brushing our teeth or learning how to walk, and knowledge that we learn through socialization.

 

 

 

 

REFERENCES


[1] Cognifit, from: https://www.cognifit.com/cognition [accessed 30/05/2019].

[2] Descartes, R. (1994) Discourse on method. In E.S. Haldane & G.R.T. Brown (Eds.), The philosophical works of Descartes. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. (Original work published in 1637).

[3] Epicurus - Epistula ad Herodotum, III century BC, section [48-50], from: http://www.attalus.org/old/diogenes10b.html [accessed 30/05/2019].

[4] Gaia Barbieri, (2009-2010). From: https://www.tesionline.it/tesi/brano/29957/I-limiti-del-mio-linguaggio-significano-i-limiti-del-mio-mondo%3F [accessed 30/05/2019].

[5] Kant, I. (1781/1998). Critique of Pure Reason, ed. and trans. P. Gruyer and A.W. Wood, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

[6] Kurt Smith, (2017). Descartes' Life and Works by Kurt Smith, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. [Retrieved 2017-11-20].

[7] Massey University, cap. 3 from: http://www.massey.ac.nz/~wwpapajl/evolution/lect12/lect1200.htm [accessed 30/05/2019]

[8] Online Etymology Dictionary, from: https://www.etymonline.com/word/cognition [accessed 30/05/2019].

[9] Oxford English Dictionary, from: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/cognition [accessed 30/05/2019].

[10] Pierre Levy, Language as a Platform, from: https://pierrelevyblog.com/tag/collective-intelligence/, [accessed 30/05/2019]

[11] R. Gejman, M. Pérez-Montoro, J.M. Díaz Nafría (2009). “KNOWLEDGE”. GlossariumBITri [accessed 30/05/2019].

[12] Wikipedia Cognition Etimology, from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognition [accessed 30/05/2019].

[13] Wikipedia Nous, from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nous [accessed 30/05/2019].

[14] Wittgenstein, L. (1961). Tractatus Logicus-philosophicus. New York. Humanities Press (Original work published in 1927).




 

Entries under work

Breucker, Hannah (30. Nov 2018, within the course "Odyssey of Philosophy and Information", facilitated by J.M.Díaz at HM)

[NOTE OF THE FACILITATOR: 
(1) The comments of the facilitator will be edited using this style, brackets, 8 pt, color change. These will be introduced in between your own text to discuss and further co-elaborate the content. Whenever the authors consider to have addressed the issue, they can simply remove the comment
(2) Simple corrections, corresponding to quite obvious missteps or disalignment with editorial style guidelines, are directly corrected, marking the involved characters in red in order to let the author know what was changed. The authors can turn it into black if they agree upon] 


NOTE of the AUTHOR (in interaction with the facilitator and colleagues): these are edited using this style, no-brackets, 8 pt, this color. 

[GENERAL COMMENT ON THE REVIEW (6/12/2018): You have done a good job linking together concepts that are discussed within the glossariumBITri and, at the same time, they are very relevant to the understanding of information and its relation to knowledge. You have while referred relevant literature]

Abstract

The intention of this article is to give a deeper understanding of the concept of cognition. The Oxford Dictionary defines Cognition as "the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding thought, experience, and the senses” (Oxford Dictionaries, 2018). With this definition it becomes clear that the concept of cognition is closely intertwined with a variety of other concepts, most importantly the concepts of knowledge, observation, perception and of course (endogenous) information. There are many more concepts that relate to cognition, however to explain all of them would take us to far for the purpose of this article. This is why I will briefly touch up on the most important concepts that relate to cognition, which need to be understood in order to understand cognition. In the following I will explain the basics of these concepts and how they relate to the concept of cognition.

Cognition and the concept of information

If Cognition is a process of acquiring knowledge as stated above, we need to start with understanding the concept of knowledge. However, in order to reach knowledge, we require information. Therefore, it makes sense to understand the concept of information first. 

As iterated in the article about Endogenous Information, Shannon and Weaver distinguish clearly between noise and information, whereas both depend on the number of elements that differ from one another. This distinction between noise and information brings with it the problem of observation. According to Ashby, observation is a cognitive ability that allows the observer to conceive the difference between information and noise, which then constitutes in a particular order (Aguado, 2009). Here we can find the first link to the concept of cognition.

From an epistemological point of view we can differentiate between the objectivist position, which considers information as an external difference to the observer independent of him, and the constructivist position. The constructivist position evolves around self-reference within the operations of the cognitive system itself. This means that information is not seen as a noticeable external difference but a difference in the environment that is linked to a difference in the system. The third position is the radical constructivist position, which adds the notion that the environment only exists for the system as a product of its own creation (Aguado, 2009).

If we therefore view information as an endogenous emergence of the operational system, we can no longer perceive the process of selection as something external but rather as a restriction of the system operation within itself. This operational closure of the observing system makes endogenous conception of information a logical requirement and explains why the constructivist positions link to a concept of cognition that necessarily becomes epistemologically (Aguado, 2009).

Cognition and the concept of Knowledge

The concepts of information and knowledge are closely related and often information is seen as a building block to gaining knowledge. As presented in the article about “Knowledge”, the classical epistemology defines information from the notions of belief, truth and justification. I know something if if I believe in it, if it is true and if I am justified in believing in it (Gejman, Pérez-Montoro, Díaz Nafría, 2009).

Dretske [I have added this link to the biographical article within the glossariumBITri] introduces a concept of knowledge as informative content, wherein belief is caused by information. To know something, I should have information of that something with probability equal to 1. Therefore, Dretske sees knowledge as Information-produced belief, which always relates to a receiver´s background knowledge and he replaces the necessity for justification of belief with causality of information (Gejman, Pérez-Montoro, Díaz Nafría, 2009).

Regardless of different concepts of knowledge, it is clear that knowledge must be identified with a special kind of mental state. There are mental states achieved by the individual through a process of information assimilation or metabolism, which results in knowledge. Mental States corresponding to mere beliefs, do not reach the necessary epistemic level to count as knowledge. These mental states result in the action and conduct of an individual and therefore control the decisions made by it. But furthermore knowledge can also be considered as a critical factor that permits the holder to assimilate new information and through that create new knowledge (Gejman, Pérez-Montoro, Díaz Nafría, 2009). The necessary mental states and processing of information to reach knowledge are another indication to how the concept of knowledge refers to the concept of cognition.

Cognition and the concept of Observation

With respects to Philosophy - and as outlined in the article about observation - observation is regarded as the process of filtering information an individual receives from their senses, which then enters the thinking process (Cesar, 2018).

During the process of observation, the receiver receives input via their senses and then processes and differentiates these senses. The sense gets absorbed through the human sensory system, which includes five aspects: vision, hearing, feeling, tasting, smelling and orientation. If the observation involves awareness (this means if the observation is based on what the observer thinks or believes) it can be connected to knowledge, because the observer can learn from the observation and derive information from it. If the sense is being used directly, without needing anything  to mediate it, it is referred to as direct observation. Indirect observation usually requires something mediating the object and the observer. This can be considered indirect observation, whereas during direct observation an individual purely collects information from its senses and is not affected by thought [Direct and indirect refers more to the fact of using the senses directly (direct observation) or requiring something mediating the object and the observer (for example a measurement instrument)...]. It is however very difficult to clearly distinguish between direct and indirect observation or to be certain that such distinction truly exists (Cesar, 2018).

As stated in the beginning, cognition is “the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses”. We can again see the importance of this concept, the concept of observation, in order to understand the concept of cognition.

Cognition and the concept of Perception

The concept of perception is very closely linked to the concept of observation and again involves the human sensory system. Perception can be understood as a process of absorbing information from the environment and using it to interrelate with this environment . For example, words are composed of individual letters that together create something that an individual can perceive as something meaningful (Warntoft, 2018). Especially the association between the graphism of a word (especially the short once like dog, mom, air, sex) have an immediate affect on awareness and therefore on perception.  [the example, as it involves language is kind of high order, while perception is kind of more immediate... Nevertheless, the association between the graphism of some words, particularly the shortest ones like air, mom, dog, sex... and the effect in the awareness is very immediate] (Warntoft, 2018). As I established in the chapter about Cognition and Observation, Observation is the process of filtering information, which then enters the thinking process. The information we receive and the way we filter and understand this information depends very much on our perception of this information. 

Even though the concept of observation and the concept of perception are close, it is important to distinguish between them. According to Hempel, the epistemic value of an observation depends on its truth and accuracy. With regards to perception, the only thing observers can truly know is how things appear to them, which can and will be different for everyone. The observer doesn´t know if their perception is true and this is also not so relevant for the concept of perception. Therefore the requirement of truth and accuracy is what distinguishes perception and observation. Therefore, we cannot be sure an observation [Is this well formulated? I don't understand well your explanation about the distinct epistemic value between perception and observation. Does it means that an observation is epistemically qualified if is based on perception?] is true or accurate, if it describes something beyond the observers own perceptual experience (Hempel, 1952: 651–746) [Hempel is one of the best representative of the logical empiricism, a movement whose central thesis was verificationism, which asserted that only statements verifiable through empirical observation are cognitively meaningful. This position was however somehow defeated in the 1960s. Thomas Kuhn's view of the revolutionary and normal science periods in research programmes changed the perspective. New theories makes perceive the world in a different way].

This brings us to the question if there is a difference between cognition and perception. At a first glance, it seems obvious that there is a difference since they play very different roles in our mental life. Perception puts us in touch with our environment, whilst cognition enables us to form beliefs, make decisions and much more. It is however difficult to draw a strict line between perception and cognition, which becomes clear when asking the following question: Can you truly distinguish what you perceive from what you cognitively judge on the basis of what you perceive? It often is not clear what is contributed by perception and what is contributed by cognition (Sydhagen, 2017:1).

There are opposing views on whether cognition and perception can be clearly distinguished or not. Jerry Fodor represents the standpoint that there is a clear distinction. In “The modularity of mind” he explains that the mind is divided into functionally distinct systems, that can be separated into input systems and central systems. Input systems have the function of processing information that enters through the sensory system and make this information accessible to the central system. The different input systems are specified in processing different types of external stimuli and generate specific representational output which are then delivered to the central system.

The central system is responsible for cognition and conscious thought. It has access to outputs of the input system but also to information stored in the central systems (memories, beliefs, knowledge, etc.). Because the input systems are limited to the kind of information they are able to process, their operation is fast and specific. The central system on the other hand operates in a much more general way as it has the capacity to process large amounts of different types of information. This concludes that the central system is significantly slower than the input systems and that on this modular view of the mind, perception and cognition are two fundamentally different mental processes (Sydhagen, 2017: 6-11).

On the other hand, there is an increasing amount of scientists suggesting that cognitive states, such as beliefs, purposes, emotions, etc., are able to influence perceptual processes. This challenges the modularity of mind, because if the perceptual system is constantly influenced by cognition, it is not possible for either of these two systems to be encapsulated. The thought that cognition penetrates perception, has been researched extensively in the last few years [There's actually a line of research that started long time ago. The author mentioned in the entries on perception, Rock, is a good exponent of it]. Researchers have, for example, shown that desirable objects seem closer and larger to subjects than undesirable ones. Or that a water bottle appears to be closer for a thirsty subject than for a subject who isn´t thirsty. Other studies have shown that also our emotional state affects our perception, for example that heights seem higher for subjects that fear them than they do for subjects who don´t fear them. Some studies show that even language can have an effect on our perception. A study categorizing faces as white and black showed that it made them appear lighter or darker to the subjects. This evidence seems to make a possible distinction between perception and cognition rather blurry (Sydhagen, 2017: 11-14).

If perception systematically interacts with all sorts of mental states, then perception can no longer be considered a functionally distinct process. However, over the last decades the modular conception of the mind has been the dominant one in research about perception and most of our current models of perception are based on this distinction. The evidence of cognitive effects on perception could call for a revolution in our conception of the mind. If perception is not the capacity of receiving neutral information about the environment, then we have to ask the question to what extent perceptual observation can provide adequate justification for knowledge (Sydhagen, 2017: 11-14).

Cognition and Emotion

Another field that the concept of cognition is very closely linked to is the field of emotion. To understand this relationship, we need to first understand and define emotion. The question of what exactly an emotion is, has been tackled by various philosophers, psychologists, sociologists, and neuroscientists. Looking at the approaches of these people, we can identify two key points of view (Power, Dalgleish, 2016: 19-21).

The first is the “feeling theory”, which is derived from Plato´s dualistic philosophy, which dominated Christian theology and reached its height in the work of René Descartes. The “feeling theory” states that the phenomenal or conscious “feeling” occurs in psychic or spiritual domain but is normally considered as a by-product of a bodily process or action. This means the bodily process or action, for example trembling or a faster heartbeat, is considered to be the cause of the conscious feeling of anxiety and not the other way around. This is a stark contrast to typical psychology belief that the feeling of anxiety causes the trembling or faster heartbeat. John Broadus Watson took this approach to the extreme by stating that mental states, such as feelings, were considered outside the scope of science, which he restricted to objects or situations (stimuli) and bodily responses (behaviour and physiology). Even though feeling theories have been dominating the approach of emotion for many years, there has been a shift away from it recently, especially in the second half of the twentieth century. However, Plato has left his mark on how we view emotion as “irrational” and in conflict with reasons, as for example in the Platonic “wandering uterus” theory, which is the origin of the concept of hysteria (Power, Dalgleish, 2016: 19-21).

The second point of view stems from Aristotle, who was a student under Plato in the Athens Academy and adopted Plato's thought regarding emotion. However, he argued that we cannot understand something without knowing both what it is made of (its constitution) but also its function. This means, that we cannot understand emotion by just viewing it as a set of physiological processes or a sequence of behaviour. To fully understand emotion, we also need to know the function of this process or behavioural sequence. This can be considered “functionalism” and in essence states that similar functions can derive from very different physical constituents, the same way that similar physical constituents may have very different functions. Karl Popper joined Aristotle in his view and states that logical form and physical form don't need to bear any consistent correspondence to each other. This becomes especially evident in digital computers, where the “same” physical state of a computer can represent a lot of different logical states, depending on which software is running on it. In a similar way, the “same” logical state could also be implemented on various different forms or different types of hardware. Relating this back to emotion, we can say that any approach that reduces the logical form of an emotion to its physical form is not supportable from this point of view. An emotion might have a psychological function within a system, for example to enable the individual to switch goals, or it might have a social one, such as to communicate with another individual but important is that we are not able to properly define emotion without knowing about these functions (Power, Dalgleish, 2016: 19-21).

Aristotle also observed that different beliefs can lead to different emotions, which is another important aspect of Aristotle's view on emotion and a link to Dretske's idea of knowledge as I described earlier. If I believe the knife I see could kill me, I will feel afraid but if I believe the knife I see can cut through a rope that ties me to something, I will feel happy about the sight of this knife. Therefore, it is my belief about the knife and the function of the knife in that specific context more than the knife in itself, which leads to these radically different emotions (Power, Dalgleish, 2016: 19-21). This suggests a connection between the concept of knowledge as an information-produced belief and the concept of perception.  Here we can see  the connection to Dretske who describes knowledge as informative content and states that knowledge is an information-produced belief [I don't really see that connection. I see more a connection between belief and perception]. 

As we can see, all these epistemological concepts are somehow linked to each other and it is hard, if not impossible, to view them independently. With this in mind we can ask the question, whether cognition and emotion can be viewed independently? This has been a big debate within the fields of psychology and philosophy over the last 50 years and still has not been fully resolved. It might never be fully resolved as in essence it depends on the point of view (Power, Dalgleish, 1999: 13- 16).

If we view emotion and cognition are being viewed from the point of reductive causal analysis, then we need to view  it is necessary for these concepts to be seen as independent from each other in order to analyze them. However, as Power & Dalgleish argue, there has been a widespread failure to realize that reduction distorts the way phenomena operate naturally [Is this sentence correct?]. A reduction and therefore artificial separation of such concepts might be necessary to analyze and understand these concepts better, however often there is no effort being made to return to the way biological and psychological systems exist in nature. So in order to fully understand these systems within their environment, the reductive analysis must be compensated by synthesis, in which the variables are being put back together into a living whole. This would be the point of view of complex but integrated systems operating in part-whole relationships. If we fail to consider the context in which a phenomenon occurs we ignore the dependency of all biological phenomena in its larger, integrated system. In conclusion this means that both, analysis and synthesis are essential in order to have to a complete science and we should not only focus on one, completely disregarding the other. With this in mind we can say that it is possible to view the concept of cognition and the concept of emotion as two independent concepts.  and emotion and cognition can therefore be viewed independently in order to understand them better [can you maybe improve this sentence a bit?]. But ultimately they cannot be considered being independent from each other but rather both included in a larger system (Power, Dalgleish, 1999; 13- 16).

References

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  • K. Cesar (2018). “OBSERVATION”. GlossariumBITri [accessed 29/11/2018] 
  • P. Warntoft (2018). “PERCEPTION”. GlossariumBITri [accessed 29/11/2018] 
  • C.G. Hempel (1952). “Fundamentals of Concept Formation in Empirical Science,” in Foundations of the Unity of Science, Volume 2, O. Neurath, R. Carnap, C. Morris (eds.), Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970, pp. 651–746.
  • P.B. Sydhagen (2017). “How can we distinguish Perception from Cognition?”, from https://www.duo.uio.no/bitstream/handle/10852/58422/Sydhagen.pdf?sequence=1), [accessed on 29/11/2018]
  • M. Power, T. Dalgleish (2016). “COGNITION AND EMOTION”. Psychology Press, 3rd Edition, New York.
  • M. Power, T. Dalgleish (1999). “HANDBOOK OF COGNITION AND EMOTION”. John Wiley & Sons Ltd., England.
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