dale_dietrich_chemero_2009 - Explanatory Pluralism in...

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Unformatted text preview: Explanatory Pluralism in Cognitive Science Rick Dale, a Eric Dietrich, b Anthony Chemero c a Department of Psychology, University of Memphis b Department of Philosophy, Binghamton University c Scientific and Philosophical Studies of Mind Program, Psychology Department, Franklin and Marshall College Received 23 January 2009; received in revised form 26 January 2009; accepted 27 January 2009 Abstract This brief commentary has three goals. The first is to argue that framework debate in cognitive science is unresolvable. The idea that one theory or framework can singly account for the vast complexity and variety of cognitive processes seems unlikely if not impossible. The second goal is a consequence of this: We should consider how the various theories on offer work together in diverse contexts of investigation. A final goal is to supply a brief review for readers who are compelled by these points to explore existing literature on the topic. Despite this literature, pluralism has garnered very little attention from broader cognitive science. We end by briefly considering what it might mean for theoretical cognitive science. Keywords: Theory; Pluralism; Emergence We use many theories to understand the universe. This basic idea, often called explana- tory pluralism, derives from the diverse levels of organization in the universe, and the equally diverse explanatory goals of human beingsconcluding that many and multifarious theories are needed. We are writing to encourage cognitive scientists to consider this plural perspective for understanding the human mind. The mind, as somehow constituted by brainbodyenvironment interaction, is extraordinarily complex. In addition, we have many and assorted interests in that interaction. A mere glance at the proceedings of the societys annual conference reveals this. Ever since the era of the cognitive revolution, many accounts of our short history portray new theories as subjugating or supplanting those that came before (Leahey, 2001). However, it is possible that the brainbodyenvironment system is sufficiently rich to admit of levels and goals of analysis that require pluralism to tackle them all. Correspondence should be addressed to Rick Dale, Department of Psychology, University of Memphis, Memphis, TN 38152. E-mail: radale@memphis.edu Cognitive Science (2009) 14 Copyright 2009 Cognitive Science Society, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN: 0364-0213 print /1551-6709 online DOI: 10.1111/j.1551-6709.2009.01042.x A big hang-up many have with plurality is its apparent flouting of ontology. One does not wish to accept the reality of some competing theory, because its constructs are somehow an approximation or idealization of purer, lower-level accounts. But reductionist ontology is not the only goal found across the sciences (Laughlin, 2005). If it were, thenontology is not the only goal found across the sciences (Laughlin, 2005)....
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