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Mayerhofer, Christina (02. Jan 2021, within the course "A Journey through Philosophy and Information", facilitated by J.M.Díaz at HM)


(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] 

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Cognitive Science and the Philosophical Issues of the Mind

Abstract: The following article contribution [change introduced with the purpose of addapting to the proper designation within the context of glossariumBITri] deals with cognitive science, more precisely the Philosophy of cognitive science and its five most prominent issues. First giving an explanation of cognitive science and the philosophy of cognitive science, the paper contribution will then get into the issues that are being discussed within the philosophy of cognitive science. The critiques that the philosophy of cognitive science has been facing will also be addressed in this article contribution , as well as the importance of the impact that emotions and culture have on the human mind.

1 Cognitive Science

Cognitive science is the science of cognition. But what is cognition? The term has its origin in Latin and Greek respectively and stands for to recognize, to know, or to perceive (cognoscere, gignoskein), due to its etymological background the term is associated with intelligence and problem-solving. Philosophers began to think about the properties of mind and matter more than two thousand years ago, but less than a couple of centuries ago, thinking began to be understood as ‚mental computation’. Researchers from different disciplines have collaborated over the past decades to study mental processes and mental representations to build intelligent systems. „Only in recent years has it become clear that it is necessary to study the brain and its neural architecture"(Walter, n.d.).   The resulting field of cognitive science encompasses the scientific study of the mind and brain, the explanation of human linguistic and non-linguistic behavior, and the development of artificial intelligent systems. Neuroscience, Artificial Intelligence, (Cognitive) Psychology, and (Neuro) Biology are just a few of the central aspects of Cognitive Science. (Walter, n.d.)

1.1 Cognitive Science and Philosophy

The research in cognitive science has experienced massive growth in the last years, which has led to the development of new experimental techniques. These new techniques were able to give more insight into how the mind and brain function, thus allowing theorizing to expand drastically in fields varying from the functional properties of memory to how cultural influences can affect moral reasoning. Philosophers are adjusting more and more to the recent developments in cognitive science, which has a huge impact on what kind of issues are studied by philosophers, to begin with, as well as the techniques they use for operating these studies. Philosophers, who have been influenced by the evolution of cognitive science, contrary to ones that have not, think of their work as being broader, and interdisciplinary in general. They can also appreciate the relevance of research in fields like linguistics, neuropsychology, and cognitive anthropology. All of this makes it clear that changes that happen in cognitive science and philosophy stand in relation to each other and can consequently also influence each other, which philosophers sometimes call „the philosophy of cognitive science“. (Samuels, R., Margolis, E., & Stich, 2012)

2 Issues of the Philosophy of Cognitive Science

There are five main categories of issues that both philosophers and scientists have dealt with for a long time. The first category of issues is called „Traditional philosophical issues about the mind“, it deals with well established philosophical problems that discuss the nature of the mind. The category „Meta-theoretic issues“ deals with issues discussing the methods of cognitive science and its basic assumptions. Issues dealing with the explanation of the main ideas of cognitive science fall under the category of „Conceptual issues“. „First-order empirical issues“ concern the prime focuses of, for example, linguistics and psychology, which are all dealing with mental phenomena and behavior. The last category „Traditional philosophical issues that are not ostensibly about the mind“ deals with long-established issues that fall into other areas of philosophy as the philosophy of the mind, for example, ethics, epistemology, or metaphilosophy. (Samuels, R., Margolis, E., & Stich, 2012)

2.1 Traditional philosophical issues about the mind

Traditional philosophical issues are fundamental questions about the human mind that have always played a huge role in philosophy and its research. A new approach has been introduced by cognitive science research, which deals with the question of how physical systems alone can generate mental properties like perception, reasoning, and memory. The most reviewed approach on this issue is called computationalism and it deals with the claim that mental abilities can be explained computationally. (Samuels, R., Margolis, E., & Stich, 2012)

The approach of computationalism, which deals with the claim that mental abilities can be explained computationally. In computationalism, the mind is most often compared to a Turing machine, which is a machine capable of similar processes like those of the mind, for example problem-solving, decision-making, or reasoning, and cannot be programmed just like the mind. In computationalism, the mind is most often compared to a Turing machine, which is a machine capable of similar processes like those of the mind, for example problem-solving, decision-making, or reasoning, and cannot be programmed just like the mind. (Rescorla, Michael, 2020)

An example of a traditional philosophical issue about the mind is the mind-body problem, which deals with the question of how mental and physical properties work together and what their relationship is. Physical properties like shape or color can be observed by everyone because they are public, whereas mental properties, such as beliefs or desires, are private to the person experiencing them and can only be judged by others from observation of different factors like behavior. Before we answer the question of how physical properties influence mental ones and vice versa, we also need to exactly establish how one can define physical and mental states. Are they entirely different from each other or is one a subcategory of the other? The question of how consciousness, intentionality, and the self-related to the brain and the body should also be taken into consideration. There are multiple views on the mind-body problem, addressed by different successional groups of philosophy. Materialists say mental states are just physical states, which can be explained for example by behaviorism or functionalism. Idealists say that physical states are just mental because the physical world is a product of everyone's experiences and Dualists say that both mental and physical states are real and cannot necessarily be compared to one another. (Robinson, Howard, 2020)

2.2 Meta-theoretic issues

Meta-theoretic issues deal with the interaction of all the different sectors that make up cognitive science and also how they work on their own. Philosophy concerning the mind is not the only the only sector that the philosophy of cognitive science deals with, the philosophy of science is also a tremendous part of it. Philosophers of cognitive science try to understand how the science is meant to be done. The mechanistic assumption is one of the Meta-theoretic issues that has been recognized in cognitive science, it deals with the theory that the mind is a mechanism, which can be broken down into functioning subparts, that can be looked at separately. This leads to cognitive science wanting to explore the workings of this mechanism further, to find out how our cognition is constructed. Another example of a meta-theoretic issue concerns the discussion about which of the different sectors of cognitive science are more valuable than others, for example, evolutionary biology is for some theorists considered the least influential sector, but for others, it is one of the most influential sectors, as they consider cognitive science to be a subpart of biology. Even the sector of neuroscience is argued to having less significance than other sectors, as the results of neuroscientific research do not often appear in theories of cognitive science. (Samuels, R., Margolis, E., & Stich, 2012)

2.3 Conceptual issues

Because a lot of philosophical and theoretical concepts can be quite complex and hard to understand,  it is very important to clarify them understandably. The concept of innateness, which is the assumption that the mind is born with ideas and knowledge, and that therefore the mind is „not a blank slate at birth“ (Wikipedia contributors, 2020). Innateness has a significant role in cognitive science, therefore there has been a lot of time dedicated by philosophers to clarify its concepts, though it is discussed that clarifying the concept has no influence on how the concept of innateness is used in cognitive science at all. Conceptual issues are often seen as less important than other issues in philosophy, as most philosophers don’t want to „just“ clarify concepts, but others even go as far as saying that sometimes philosophical problems only arise because of a lack of clarification in language or the concept itself, this has been proven wrong though. (Samuels, R., Margolis, E., & Stich, 2012)

2.4 First-order empirical issues

It is obvious that philosophy and science cannot be separated from each other, as philosophers and scientists often work together to contribute to continuous empirical discussions. The ability to predict another person's behavior, which is most often called „Theory of mind“ is one of the empirical issues that philosophers have focused on. In the theory of mind, it is investigated how we can make a prediction of the actions of another person based on how we perceive their mental state, which is an ability that almost all humans are capable of (Marraffa, M., n.d.). Another example of an empirical issue that philosophers have been researching regarding cognitive science is the correlation of cognition and culture, which has not been the center of discussion in early philosophy because it was not seen as playing an essential role in mental life but now has come to some recognition (Samuels, R., Margolis, E., & Stich, 2012).

2.5 Traditional philosophical issues that are not ostensibly about the mind

One example of issues that do not, in the first instance, directly deal with the mind are issues dealing with „the nature of rationality“. It is discussed that society and the environment that someone lives in can have a tremendous influence on one's rationality, which can be inferred from cognitive science research, especially in the fields of decision making and faculty of judgment. The field of cognitive science received appreciation for this research as these issues were earlier viewed as being a subject matter of epistemology or ethics.

Another example of such an issue would be „metaphilosophical issues about the nature of philosophy itself“(Samuels, R., Margolis, E., & Stich, 2012), especially the characterization of their own research area and the methods of talking about these areas are highly discussed.

3 Critique of Cognitive Science

There are some challenges that are brought forward by critics of cognitive science which challenge the claim that the workings of the human mind are underlying to computation. Though this approach was able to explain a lot about, for example, the use of language or learning, it is only an empirical supposition and might not be true. Critics claim that cognitive science disregards the importance of aspects like what impact emotions or physical environments can have on human thinking, they also claim that the mind does not work computationally, but dynamically. Aspects like consciousness and social factors also play a role in human thought and how our mind works but are also not debated in cognitive science (Thagard, Paul, 2020).

3.1  The Impact of Emotions on the mind

In the voice „Emotion“, Marko Vekić argues that „Emotions could be described easily as a phenomenon which was adapted to the genetics of a human being, in the process of evolution“. Emotions are also argued to be the most important aspect concerning the „quality and meaning of our existence“ (Scarantino, Andrea and Ronald de Sousa, 2018), that is why emotions have always been of importance in philosophy. As the topic of emotions has been neglected for quite some time, it is important to show how emotions can influence for example our memory and learning patterns. Research shows for example, that emotions can have an impact on how we remember specific events or information that we have an emotional reference to (Pessoa, Luiz, 2009). Our perception and attention can also be triggered by emotional stimuli, for example, an emotionally loaded facial expression attracts more attention than a neutral facial expression. Not only can emotions have an impact on the mind, but also the other way around, as research has shown that thinking about negative or positive emotions can trigger exactly these emotions (Pessoa, Luiz, 2009).

3.2  The Impact of Culture on the mind

Experiences and behavior can also be influenced by our culture, there are aspects of our mind that are always the same, no matter what the culture is that you are influenced by, but other aspects of our mind tend to change based on our culture. The properties, processes, or habits that can be found in many different cultures alike, which are true for people of, for example, a certain age or gender, are called „psychological universals“ (Fessler, D. M. T., & Machery, E., 2012). To find a link between all cultures and humans these psychological universals have been investigated for a long time, for example by Charles Darwin. Fessler and Machery argue that shame as an emotion is a good example of a universal trait that can be found in all cultures, though it might be handled in a different way by the person experiencing the emotion or there might be different activators in different cultures, it is still fundamentally the same emotion. Another example of how culture can influence cognition, but in a whole different way, is the approach to how similar differences in thought or beliefs can occur in different cultures. The approach of „extended cognition“, which establishes „that features of the environment can be part of a cognitive process, consisting of a coupling of the brain and the environmental feature“ (Knopp, 2020), has been of tremendous significance as this part of the research has been widely overlooked by cognitive science.

3.3 The Chinese room thought experiment

Another concrete example of criticism of cognitive science is the „Chinese Room“ argument, which has been introduced firstly by the philosopher John Searle in 1980 and has been a focal point of discussion ever since. This argument especially targets the philosophical position of computationalism, which states that the human mind operates only on formal symbols, making it the same as a programmed computer (Wikipedia contributors, 2020). In this thought experiment a machine that takes chinese characters and is able to present other Chinese characters by following a program through an output. The machine is able to imitate a human being, who is able to speak chinese, so well that it is able to convince a real chinese speaking human being that it is in fact human, and can understand and speak chinese, this is called the Turing test. Taking it a step further Searle proposes, that a non-chinese-speaking person in a sealed-off room with the same computer program that the machine has in english language and the necessary utensils to write down the chinese characters, can pass the Turing test as well and convince someone of their ability to speak and understand the chinese language. Searle concludes that the machine and the person, both running the same program, can not be differentiated and that because the non-chinese-speaking still does not understand a word of chinese, the machine does not either (Wikipedia contributors, 2020). 

  • WALTER, Sven (no date). Philosophie der Kognitionswissenschaft. From, [accessed 28/12/2020].

  • Wikipedia contributors. (2020, December 2). Innatism. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. From, [accessed 28/12/2020].

  • Marraffa, M., „Theory of Mind“, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, From:,or%20mentalizing%20or%20mentalistic%20abilities./, [accessed 28/12/2020].

  • Rescorla, M., „The Computational Theory of Mind“, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2020 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), From:, [accessed 28/12/2020].

  • Robinson, H., „Dualism“, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2020 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), From:, [accessed 28/12/2020].

  • Thagard, P., „Cognitive Science“, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2020 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), From:, [accessed 28/12/2020].

  • Samuels, R., Margolis, E., & Stich, S. P. (2012, January 18). Introduction: Philosophy and Cognitive Science. From empirical issues: Issues, linguistics, and allied disciplines.,[accessed 30/12/2020].

  • Vekić, M. (2019). „Emotion“. GlossariumBITri, [accessed 30/12/2020].

  • Scarantino, A. and de Sousa, R., „Emotion“, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2018 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), From:, [accessed 02/01/2021].

  • DR. Pessoa, L. (2009) Cognition and emotion. Scholarpedia, 4(1):4567. From:“>Cognition and emotion, [accessed 02/01/2021].

  • Fessler, D. M. T., & Machery, E. (2012). Culture and Cognition. Oxford Handbooks Online. From: doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195309799.013.0021#, [accessed 02/01/2021].

  • Knopp, P., (2020). „Cognition“. GlossariumBITri, [accessed 02/01/2020].

  • Wikipedia contributors. (2020, December 28). Chinese room. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. From:, [accessed 02/01/2021].

Knopp, Pia (18. Jun 2020, within the course "A Journey through Philosophy and Information", facilitated by J.M.Díaz at HM)


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An Introduction on the Concepts of Extended Cognition and Extended Mind and their Epistemological Ramifications

Abstract: In the following entry the theses of extended cognition and extended mind are presented. Their most important aspects and conditions are explained before possible ramifications of extended cognition in current epistemology are examined.

Where does the mind stop and the rest of the world begin?“

Cognition is, according to the Lexico by Oxford, generally understood as „the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses“ ("Cognition", 2020).

Many philosophers of the modern world, as well as from ancient times have formed numerous theories on the nature of cognition and even dedicated it it's own branch of philosophy, that of epistemology, the theory of knowledge. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, epistemology seeks to explore what qualifies knowledge, the justification of it as well as its limits and sources (Steup and Neta, 2005).

In 1998 a new theory on cognition had been introduced (Kriss, 2017). This highly discussed Theory of Extended Cognition, first proposed by Clark and Chalmers in their “Extended Mind” - paper, raises the question “Where does the mind stop and the rest of the world begin?” and offers the concepts of extended cognition and extended mind as very novel answers (Clark and Chalmers, 1998).

Clark and Chalmers not only advocate an active externalism, which under certain conditions ascribes features of the environment an active role in driving cognitive processes, they also argue that in certain cases the mind extends into the environment.

In this entry, the concept of extended cognition which is grounded on an active externalism as well as on the so called parity principle, advocated for by Clark and Chalmers, will be introduced first.

Following this, the implication of this extended cognition thesis, the thesis of extended mind, will be presented.

Each thesis will be accompanied by a short argumentation of the authors as well as some explanatory examples. The reflection on the “Extended Mind” - paper ends with a short outlook into further possible implications of the theories of extended cognition and mind on various fields of science.

Considering the voice of Duncan Pritchard (Pritchard, 2010), advocating Clark and Chalmer's theses, the ramifications of extended cognition in current epistemology will be explored in the second part of the entry.

1. The Theses of Extended Cognition and Extended Mind According to Clark and Chalmers

Clark and Chalmers made an observation concerning human problem-solving: There are many everyday cases in which humans make use of their environment, they even heavily rely on it when making decisions or executing other mental tasks.

Whenever a person is, for example, solving a long mathematical multiplication with the help of pen and paper or rearranges the physical letters in a game of Scrabble to aid in finding combinations that make up a word, the brain performs some of the required operations, while others are "delegated to manipulations of external features of the environment" (Clark and Chalmers, 1998).

The generally assumed boundaries of brain and skull for cognitive processes are, according to Clark and Chalmers, a metaphysical bioprejudice, which they seek to rule out by their introduction of the parity principle (Carter, 2013).

1.1. Active Externalism and the Parity Principle

An example used to explain the concept of active externalism in detail is that of the game Tetris, which requires the player to rotate the falling geometrical shapes in a way that makes them fit well with the already fallen and accumulated pieces on the bottom of the screen. The player does so by operating a button to rotate accordingly.

A calculation, made by David Kirsh and Paul Maglio, determines that the time it takes to rotate a falling shape by 90 degrees and subsequently pressing the button takes much less time than to mentally rotate the shape (Kirsh and Maglio, 1994).

Kirsh and Maglio's conclusion is that often times the action of rotating the shape by operating the button is not used to position an already mentally rotated shape but instead the rotating of the pieces is used to determine whether the caused alignment is already adequate or requires another rotation.

Following Kirsh and Maglio's reasoning (Kirsh and Maglio, 1994), Clark and Chalmers identify this pattern of action as an epistemic action, an action that “alter[s] the world so as to aid and augment cognitive process such as recognition and search” and further demand “the spread of epistemic credit” (1998, p.8), which in conclusion results in their first condition of which features of the environment qualify as a part of a cognitive process. This condition, the parity principal, implies that if a feature involved in a task functions in a way that, if this process took place 'in the head', it would naturally be seen as a part of cognitive process, this feature of the environment is in deed part of the cognitive process (Clark and Chalmers, 1998).

Active externalism sees the environment as being connected to the human organism in “a two-way interaction, creating a coupled system that can be seen as a cognitive system in its own right” (Clark and Chalmers, 1998, p 8).

Both the human organism and parts of the environment are involved and “jointly govern behaviour in the same sort of way that cognition usually does” (Clark and Chalmers, 1998, p. 8). The role of external features in cognitive processes is therefore assessed the same significance as parts of the brain; their absence could alter behaviour fundamentally.

Further details of the proposed externalism are that the relevant features of the environment are assumed to be active and to play a crucial part in the present, which contrasts this active externalism against standard variety.

1.2. Extended Cognition

Building on the principles of active externalism and parity, it is established that features of the environment can be part of a cognitive process, consisting of a coupling of the brain and the environmental feature.

1.2.1. Reliable Coupling as a Necessary Condition of Extended Cognition

There are certain conditions for processes in order to qualify as extended cognition, which will be explored in the following.

The most crucial condition for a feature, in order to qualify as a process of extended cognition, is that the coupling with the agent has to be reliable.
If reliable coupling of the two systems, agent and feature of the environment, is in place, the mere fact that coupling within the brain is generally more reliable does not invalidate extended cognition (Clark and Chalmers, 1998).

1.2.2. Confronting some Points of Criticism on Extended Cognition

Both theses meet challenging voices. In the following a few point of criticism, as well as Clark and Chalmer's answers, will be presented.

One point of criticism concerns the different degrees of reliability of coupling taking place within the brain and in a case of extended cognition, involving agent and environment.

Clark and Chalmers point out that the parity principle applies once more: In the future there could be the option of brain implants, which involved in a cognitive process, would be seen as a natural part of such cognitive processes. Therefore features of the environment, which are not yet available as brain implants, should not be disqualified as parts of cognitive processes, solely because of their external nature.

It is also noted that the mere fact that environmental features of extended cognitive processes can be subject to the danger of loss, damage or malfunction does not discredit them, since the same applies to the brain, which underlies occasional malfunctions, for example in the state of intoxication, under the influence of intense emotions or during the unconscious state of sleep.

1.2.3. Evolution and Extended Cognition

Clark and Chalmers further suggest that the brain might in fact have been molded by evolution to “factor in the reliable presence of a manipulable external environment” and “exploit the possibility of the environment being in the cognitive loop” (1998, p. 11).

1.3. Extended Mind

The theory of the extended mind builds on the same arguments that support extended cognition; some mental states, such as beliefs, can be partly constituted by features of the environment, if these features play a certain role in driving cognitive processes (Clark and Chalmers, 1998.

1.3.1. Extended Mind in the Classical Otto-Case

One famous example used by Chalmers and Clark, to demonstrate the possibility of an Extended Mind, is that of Otto and Inga.

While Inga is, in medical aspects, a regular person, Otto suffers from Alzheimer's disease and therefore has a compromised biological memory, which he replaces by a notebook he carries with him at all times. It holds all the relevant information needed for him to navigate everyday life. Otto consults his notebook constantly and if he learns new information he puts it down in the book.

If both Inga and Otto would want to attend an event taking place at a certain time and address, Inga might believe the event to be at a certain place and accordingly consult her memory, while Otto would consult his notebook, believing the wanted information to be written down there.

The notebook serves Otto as a reliable and constant replacement, as an artificial memory. It can therefore be argued that the notebook is a part of Otto's belief-system; robbing him of the notebook would therfore mean robbing him of his memory (Clark and Chalmers, 1998).

1.3.2. External Mind and it's conditions

The condition for a feature of the environment in order to qualify as part of an extended mind, is once again a certain reliability of the coupling.

In Otto's case a notebook consulted only occasionally or not easily accessible in the most relevant situations, would not be reliable enough.

But since Otto consults his notebook before almost every decision, has direct and easy access to the information held in it and trusts the information in the notebook to be correct and therefore automatically applies it without questioning it, the notebook clearly counts as a part of his belief system (Clark and Chalmers, 1998). 

1.3.3. Further Applications of the Extended Mind Thesis

Clark and Chalmers propose further application of the thesis of Extended mind and cognition.

Socially extended cognition, which describes an agent's “mental states to be partly constituted by the states of other thinkers” (Clark and Chalmers, 1998, p. 12), might be found in a partner, secretary or accountant, if the conditions of high degrees of trust, reliance and easy accessibility are fullfilled.

In regards of the thesis of extended mind, Clarks and Chalmers propose an implied extended self, where the agent himself is regarded as “extended system, a coupling of biological organism and external resources” (1998, p. 18).

2. Ramifications of External Cognition in Current Epistemology

Exploring possible ramifications of the thesis of extended cognition in current epistemology offers further support of the thesis.

2.1. The Classical Epistemological Model on Knowledge

Before presenting some the two selected voices, it makes sense to gather a more detailed insight into the classical epistemological model on knowledge. 'Classical' model refers to the common model before the impact of the so called Gettier-problems.

This model entails several conditions on what qualifies beliefs as knowledge:

Only if a belief, that the concerned agent believes, is true and the agent's belief in this true belief is justified, it qualifies as knowledge. (Gettier, 1983) 

2.2. Ramifications of the Thesis of Extended Cognition in Current Epistemology According to Pritchard

Pritchard beliefs the thesis of extended cognition to have “important implications for epistemology” (2010, p. 134) and argues, that a weak account of cognitive agency fits well with extended cognition and therefore concludes that “the extended cognition thesis may actually constitute a natural way of thinking about cognitive agency” (2010, p. 149).

In his paper he first examines what is required for an agent in order to exhibit a cognitive ability and. based on that, advocates the weak account as a more appropriate approach for knowledge, compared to the strong account.

Pritchards claims that “a key thread of current epistemology - regarding the relationship between cognitive ability and knowledge - [...] fits quite snugly with the extended cognition thesis” (2010, p. 134).

In his paper he examines two accounts on cognitive agency and argues for the weak account which he sees compatible with extended cognition.

2.2.1. The Ability Intuition

The ability intuition in current epistemology holds the idea, that “knowledge is the product of cognitive ability” (Pritchard, 2010, p. 134), which consequently rules out any true beliefs, that may meet other classical epistemological conditions on knowledge, if they are not a product of cognitive ability.

A classical example to illustrate the relevance of the ability intuition and what is required to satisfy it, would be that of Alvin, a person born with a brain lesion that makes him randomly but reliably form true beliefs about the solution of complex mathematical problems.

The reliable believe-forming process, the brain lesion, lies under the agent's skin, the formed beliefs nevertheless do not qualify as knowledge: This person’s source of reliability is internal but still the person does not have knowledge of the solutions of the mathematical problems since the person's cognitive abilities are not involved in the forming of the beliefs.

If Alvin became aware of the nature of his brain lesion and of the fact that this is a reliable source of beliefs, his beliefs on the mathematical problems would qualify as knowledge, since now the agent incorporated the reliable belief-forming process in his cognitive character in a way that the cognitive success can now be primarily credited to his cognitive agency (Pritchard, 2010).

2. 2. 2. Weak vs. Strong Account

Pritchard refers to two accounts of cognitive agency, the strong account and the weak account.

He sees a weak account of cognitive agency, which can be summarized as: 

If S knows that p, then S's true belief that p is the product of a   reliable belief-forming process which is appropriately integrated within S's cognitive character such that her cognitive success is to a significant degree creditable to her cognitive agency (2010, pp.136-137)

as more plausible.

2. 2. 2. 1. Weak Spots of the Strong Account

A strong account of cognitive agency, which demands a very strong relationship between cognitive success and cognitive agency, encounters issues in certain situations.

The strong account requires the agent's cogntive agency to be primarily creditable for the cogntive succes in order to qualify a belief formed this way as knowledge. The emphasis lies on the primary creditability, whereas a weak account requires only a significant creditability.

There are cases where environmental luck leads to an agent not acquiring knowledge even though his cognitive success is primarily creditable to his cognitive agency.

An example: A person looking at a field, searching for sheep, might mistake a big white dog as a sheep and conclude that there are sheep in the field. Fortunately there are sheep hidden behind the dog, so the agent's belief that there are sheep in the field is a true belief and is furthermore primarily creditable to his cognitive agency. But since this belief is only true because of the involved environmental epistemic luck, it is unsafe and does not qualify for knowledge.

The same applies for cases in which the present environmental epistemic luck does not intervene between the agent's cognitive agency and cognitive success.

In another case, knowledge can be acquired in epistemically friendly environments with only very little cognitive ability on the agent's part.

The important conclusion of these cases is, that if a true belief is the product of a reliable belief-forming process, which is appropriately integrated within the agent's cognitive character and makes the cognitive success primarily creditable to the agent's cognitive agency, it fulfils only a necessary condition, not a sufficient one and does not yet qualify as knowledge.

Taking into account all these limitations of the strong account, the weak account of cognitive agency and of cognitive ability seems so be the more sensible choice (Pritchard, 2010).

2. 2. 3. The Weak Account of Cognitive Agency and Extended Cognition

Casting the case of Otto in the light of the weak account, it can be concluded that Otto gains knowledge.

What is important here is that, besides the notebook being easily accessible and constantly available as well as trusted by Otto, Otto has consciously decided to extend his cognitive process by the notebook.

It can be argued that by the way Otto handles the notebook it is more than just an aid in his cognition. Otto is treating the notebook in a way that not only reflects his epistemic virtue, he also appropriately integrates the notebook into his cognitive character in a way that makes it count as one of his cognitive abilities in the extended cognitive processes taking place.

Prtichard concludes that cognitive processes taking place beyond the boundaries of brain and skull can count as part of an agent's cognitive agency if they are integrated within the agent's cognitive character in a way that cogntive success can be creditable to the agent's cognitive agency to a significant degree (2010).

2. 2. 4. Innate and Non-Innate Bellief-Forming Processes

Prtichard furthermore inquires what is the minimum demand that has to be met for an appropriate integration of a source of extended cognition within the cognitive character.

He concludes that in cases of innate belief-forming processes,where the source of extended cognition is there from the beginning, it is not necessary for the agent to know that the processes are reliable he does also not need knowledge over the source of reliability.

If a person is for example born with a reliable brain implant that he relies on without knowing if the implant is reliable or the source of it's reliability, he still represents a case of genuine cognitive integration, if the agent is assumed to respond to discrepancies between beliefs formed by the implant and beliefs formed otherwise.

If a source of extended cognition is not innate, but added artificially later on, it requires the agent to “take a reflective stance on the epistemic standing of this change” (Pritchard, 2010, p. 147), before genuine cognitive integration and the obtaining of knowledge are possible (Pritchard, 2010).

3. Conclusion

Clark and Chalmer's goal in their “Extended Mind"- Paper is to demonstrate that cogntive processes can take place beyond the boundaries of biological boundaries of the brain or the skull. Pritchard proves that there is a way to epistemically argue in the favor of extended cognition.

By introducing their paritiy principle and elaborating their active externalism they suceeded in making the thesis of extended cognition and extended mind an established and relevant topic for various fields of science.

Numerous papers to this day explore further possible applications of the theses first released in 1998. The theses of extended cognition and extended mind finds application inthe most diverse areas of research; Smart (2017) for example implores the Internet as a possible part of extended cognition, and Cash (2010) explores the implications of extended cognition on personal responsibility and autonomy.

In conclusion, the theses of extended cognition and extended mind are one of the most interesting introductions to the philosophy of the past few decades and, remaining relevant to this day, are worth taking a closer look at. 


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

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The following contribution aims at defining the concept of cognition, first in an epistemological way, starting to investigate the actual definition from the vocabulary and then in a scientific way.
The etymology gives us the opportunity to retrace the changes of the idea of cognition from ancient Greeks to the modern age. Then the paper focuses in the efforts of science in understanding the mental procedures with which one gets to know the world, defining cognition as a set of mental processes. In particular it is described how the information theory of C. Shannon influenced our understanding of cognition and how informatic and artificial intelligence systems are developed in concomitance with our idea of cognition. Subsequently, in the last thirty years, the ‘network topology’ has been defined as the key structure for understanding how human cognition works (and so how the universe works from our point of view). Finally, it is shown the strict relation between cognition and language, pointing out the limits that humanity has. The paper concludes with scientific descriptions of the main processes of cognition, giving more significance to the vocabulary definition provided at the beginning and outlining how today science really considers it.


The definition of cognition proposed by the Oxford Dictionary (Oxford, ) 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.”
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. (Etymonline, )
  • 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' (Wiki-Etym, 2019)

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 (intended as classical epistemologic model of "Knowledge"; Díaz Nafría, J.M. et al. 2009) 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” (Wittgenstein, L. 1961). 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 (Diogene Laertius, III century BC):

    "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."
    (section 48-50)

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’ (Borrowed from Ancient Greek νοῦς (noûs) or νόος (nóos, “mind”); Wiki-Nous, (2019)). '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 (Wiki-Nous, 2019). As it will be analyzed further on in this contribution, 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 R. (1994) elaborated the doctrine of skepticism, now considered as the start of modern philosophy (Smith, K. 2017). 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” (Kant, I. 1781/1998) 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 (From Behaviourism to Cognitivism, ): 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 (Levy, P. 2017, section Language as a Platform):

    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,            hared by members of the same culture and learned by social        ontact. 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.”

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 (1961):

    "The limits of my language mean the limits of my world."

Taking the representation of Barbieri, G (2009-2010), 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:

    "(…) 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."
     (ibid: §5.62)

    "I am my world. (The microcosm.)"
    (ibid: §5.63)

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 (Cognifit, ):

  • 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.


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

(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]

The conceptual network of cognition

Abstract: The intention of this contribution 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 contribution. 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.

1. 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 contribution 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).

2. 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 contribution 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.

3. Cognition and the concept of observation

With respects to Philosophy - and as outlined in the contribution 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.

4. 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).

5. 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).


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