Silent revolution in Cognitive Science, slowly overriding 4E

We recently published a paper From Wide Cognition to Mechanisms: A Silent Revolution in Frontiers in Psychology. The paper was six years in the making, which mirrors the slow, silent revolution in cognitive science. In the paper, we argue that several recent ‘wide’ perspectives on cognition—embodied, embedded, extended, enactive, and distributed—are now only partially relevant to the study of cognition.

The study of cognition has already progressed beyond these proposed perspectives toward building integrated explanations of the mechanisms involved, including not only internal submechanisms but also interactions with others, groups, cognitive artifacts, and their environment. Wide perspectives are essentially research heuristics for building mechanistic explanations. It’s a silent revolution; it happens without much fanfare. But it is real.

In some ways, what we say could be considered merely a description of what happens right now in cognitive (neuro)science: it does move away from pure methodological individualism to embrace a view of cognition that is no longer treated as autonomous from the brain, culture, or society. So, what is controversial about our paper?

First and foremost, we argue that wide perspectives on cognition are best understood mechanistically. This means we believe that people who stress embodiment or the role of the environment are best seen as proposing causal explanations of cognitive phenomena. Maybe controversial, if you deny that causal explanations exist, believe that there are general invariant laws of cognition, or consider boxes-and-arrows models of cognition to be more useful than causal models. We don’t think this is really controversial.

Another point is that we stress that wide perspectives offer only limited heuristics for the study of cognition. This is admittedly much more controversial, especially if you have spent a lot of time arguing that methodological solipsism is not a good idea. What, embodied cognition or the extended mind are not really complete theories of cognition?

Nope. Theories should offer detailed predictions for the phenomena we want to study. Take mind-reading: the ability to understand other minds. What in particular does the extended mind perspective predict and explain about it? Maybe that there will be some non-brain-based props that we use to understand others, such as linguistic utterances of others. So maybe some manipulations of linguistic utterances could influence mind-reading. But that’s it. Preciously little. Ditto for embodiment: all it points out is that there could be non-neural factors of mind-reading. Maybe we are much more effective in ascribing mental states to bodies that resemble ours (but again, we know that people can easily ascribe intentions to triangles and squares). Still, we remain quite in the dark about the mechanism that allows us to understand what others think. We need a more integrative story. In the paper, we describe a story based on the idea of mind-shaping as defended recently by Tad Zawidzki.

Thus, what we say is that instead of providing complete theories or iron principles of cognition, wide perspectives help researchers make informed choices of what causal factors to study when explaining cognitive phenomena. Wide perspectives provide fallible heuristics for the study of cognition and thus, they usually best work together.

I’m sure that there is a lot here to disagree and discuss further. What I hope to see is whether we could, thanks to this discussion, make some progress toward understanding what theory in cognitive science should be.

Thanks to all authors who helped to write this paper. 

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Marcin Miłkowski


Source: Cognitive Science in Search of Unity

Regarding the Mind, Naturally

Book coverOur volume is just out! Thanks to all contributors for their excellent work. 

Some of the early versions of the papers in this volume were presented during workshops in Kazimierz Dolny, Poland that we have organized over a number of years, and a certain kind of dualism that seems to correspond to the two kinds of naturalism discussed above is reflected in the names of these workshops. They started out as the Kazimierz Naturalized Epistemology Workshop (KNEW) back in 2005. After some time, roughly at the point when we decided that there was enough material about normativity to think of editing a volume about it (which appeared as Beyond Description), we retained only the acronym, as we felt that epistemology was already successfully naturalized. The unofficial expansion was Kazimierz Naturalized Everything Workshop, while the official one – Kazimierz Naturalist Workshop. We wanted to stress that we are no longer so much interested in meta-philosophical reflection about the status of naturalism as in the real work done.
Because many of the participants of the workshops have decided to come regularly, we believe we can say that there is something that brings them together; this is exactly the second kind of naturalism, as described above. For the present volume, we asked some of our regulars to contribute chapters related to naturalistic approaches to the mind.
Naturalism is currently the most vibrantly developing approach to philosophy, with naturalised methodologies being applied across all the philosophical disciplines. One of the areas naturalism has been focussing upon is the mind, traditionally viewed as a topic hard to reconcile with the naturalistic worldview. A number of questions have been pursued in this context. What is the place of the mind in the world? How should we study the mind as a natural phenomenon? What is the significance of cognitive science research for philosophical debates? In this book, philosophical questions about the mind are asked in the context of recent developments in cognitive science, evolutionary theory, psychology, and the project of the naturalisation. Much of the focus is upon what we have learned by studying natural mental mechanisms as well as designing artificial ones. In the case of natural mental mechanisms, this includes consideration of such issues as the significance of deficits in these mechanisms for psychiatry. The significance of the evolutionary context for mental mechanisms as well as questions regarding rationality and wisdom is also explored. Mechanistic and functional models of the mind are used to throw new light on discussions regarding issues of explanation, reduction and the realisation of mental phenomena. Finally, naturalistic approaches are used to look anew at such traditional philosophical issues as the correspondence of mind to world and presuppositions of scientific research.


Introduction 1

Naturalizing the Mind

Marcin Miłkowski and Konrad Talmont-Kaminski

Chapter One 12

Reverse Engineering in Cognitive Science

Marcin Miłkowski

Chapter Two 30

Carving the Mind by its Joints: Culture-bound Psychiatric

Disorders as Natural Kinds

Samuli Pöyhönen

Chapter Three 49

Naturalizing Wisdom

Mark Alfino

Chapter Four 71

A Biological Perspective on the Nature of Cognition:
Some Remarks for a Naturalistic Program

Alvaro Moreno

Chapter Five 86

Do Animals See Objects?

Paweł Grabarczyk

Chapter Six 103

Grounding the Origins of the State in the Evolution of the Mind

Benoît Dubreuil

Chapter Seven 119

Realization and Robustness: Naturalizing Nonreductive


Markus I. Eronen


Chapter Eight 138

Can the Mental be Causally Efficacious?

Panu Raatikainen

Chapter Nine 167

On Reduction and Interfield Integration in Neuroscience

Witold M. Hensel

Chapter Ten 182

Challenges to Cartesian Materialism: Understanding

Consciousness and the Mind-World Relation

Jonathan Knowles

Chapter Eleven 203

Qualia as Intrinsic Properties

Tadeusz Ciecierski

Chapter Twelve 216

A HOT Solution to the Problem of the Explanatory Gap

Dimitris Platchias

Chapter Thirteen 232

Naturalizing Epistemology for Autonomous Systems

Jaime Gomez Ramirez

Chapter Fourteen 248

How Truth could be Reduced? Field’s Deflationism as a Kind
of Supervenience Thesis

Krystyna Bielecka

Chapter Fifteen 262

How to Naturalize Truth

María J. Frápolli


Automating rule generation for grammar checkers


In this paper, I describe several approaches to automatic or semi-automatic creating symbolic rules for grammar checkers and propose a pure corpora-based approach.

Traditional a priori approaches can reuse existing positive or negative knowledge that is not based on empirical corpora research. For example, they reuse knowledge such as usage dictionaries, spelling dictionaries or formalized grammars. Mixed approaches apply linguistic knowledge to corpora to refine intuitive prescriptions described for humans in dictionaries. For example, it is relatively easy to use machine-learning methods, such as transformation-based learning (TBL) to create error-matching rules using real corpora material. TBL algorithms can start with dictionary knowledge (Mangu & Brill 1997) or with artificially introduced errors to corpora that were known to be relatively free from errors (Sjöberg & Knuttson 2005). Approaches based on reusing error corpora were often discarded as non-realistic, as creating such corpora is costly. Yet, there are ways to automate building such corpora by observing frequency of user revisions to the text (Miłkowski 2008).

I show how an error corpus generated from Wikipedia revision history can be used to automatically generate error-matching symbolic rules for grammar checkers. Though no error corpora can be considered complete, TBL algorithms deal with small corpora sufficiently well. Automated building of rules can also enhance grammar checkers’ rules precision.

I show some of the automatically generated rules for Polish and English: as they were learned using TBL, they had a symbolic form and were easily translatable to the notation required by LanguageTool, an open-source general-purpose proofreading software. As will be shown, some of the automatically generated rules tend to have higher recall than the ones manually crafted. TBL rules don’t allow the level of generality offered by LanguageTool (no regular expressions, not to mention such mechanisms as feature unification) so human intervention is useful to join the resulting rules together in a single LanguageTool rule.

See the full paper draft here.

The Polish Language in the Digital Age

Information technology changes our everyday lives. We typically use computers for writing, editing, calculating, and information searching, and increasingly for reading, listening to music, viewing photos and watching movies. We carry small computers in our pockets and use them to make phone calls, write emails, get information and entertain ourselves, wherever we are. How does this massive digitisation of information, knowledge and everyday communication affect our language? Will our language change or even disappear? These are the kinds of questions that I answer in the META-NET publication: The Polish Language in The Digital Age. Freely downloadable!


Microsoft Office contains a decent OCR engine, yet it does not create PDF files with a text layer on it. This project contains a script that takes a tif file and converts it into HOCR format (HTML + OCR). This can be then processed with a simple Java program to get a PDF file. Grab it here.


W pakiecie Microsoft Office jest niezła funkcja rozpoznawania znaków (OCR), ale niestety, nie pozwala tworzyć graficznych plików PDF z warstwą tekstową. Zapisuje pliki w dziwnym formacie .modi lub .tif o nietypowej budowie. Stworzyłem narzędzie, które jednak coś z tym robi. Do pobrania tutaj.

Beyond Description. Naturalism and Normativity


Image The volume we edited with Konrad Talmont-Kamiński has just been published.
Here is the blurb:

The contributors to this volume engage with issues of normativity within naturalised philosophy. The issues are critical to naturalism as most traditional notions in philosophy, such as knowledge, justification or representation, are said to involve normativity. Some of the contributors pursue the question of the correct place of normativity within a naturalised ontology, with emergentist and eliminativist answers offered on neighbouring pages. Others seek to justify particular norms within a naturalised framework, the more surprising ones including naturalist takes on the a priori and intuitions. Finally, yet others examine concrete examples of the application of norms within particular epistemic endeavours, such as psychopathology and design. The overall picture is that of an intimate engagement with issues of normativity on the part of naturalist philosophers – questioning some of the fundamentals at the same time as they try to work out many of the details.

You can find the contents of the volume below.


Continue reading “Beyond Description. Naturalism and Normativity”