Cognitive studies is an interdisciplinary study of the mind and its nature, processes, and functions. The fields important for the study of the mind include linguistics, psychology, artificial intelligence, philosophy, neuroscience, and anthropology. Scientists and philosophers study intelligence and behavior, considering how nervous systems represent and process information. Mental faculties which are the concern of cognitive studies include perception, memory, attention, reasoning, emotion, and also learning, planning, and modular organization of the brain. The fundamental concepts are dualism, funcionalism, physicalism, behavioralism, representation, and infomation.
Cognitive sciences as an intellectual movement began in the 1950s. It was called the cognitive revolution. Cognitive sciences have a philosophical prehistory in ancient Greece, especially in Plato’s Meno and Aristotle’s De Anima. Later philosophical development includes René Descartes, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, and John Locke. Their writings lead to the development of philosophy of mind and consciousness, and psychology. They use different tools and concepts than cognitive scientists.
The contemporary cognitive science can be traced back to the early cyberneticists in the 1930s and 1940s, to scientists like Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitts, who developed the first variants of what are known as artificial neural networks and models of computation, which were inspired by the structure of biological neural networks. Another important development was the theory of computation and the digital computer in the 1940s and 1950s, inspired by Alan Turing and John von Neumann.
In 1959 Noam Chomsky published a review of B. F. Skinner’s book Verbal Behavior. Skinner’s behaviorist paradigm dominated psychology. Most psychologists focused on functional relations between stimulus and response. According to Chomsky, in order to explain language, we needed a theory which explains grammar and thus internal representations and their underlying order.
The founding meeting of the Cognitive Science Society was at the University of California, San Diego in 1979.
In 1972, Hampshire College started the first undergraduate education program in Cognitive Science.
In 1982, Vassar College became the first institution to grant an undergraduate degree in Cognitive Science.
In 1986, the first Cognitive Science Department was founded at the University of California, San Diego.
In the 1970s and early 1980s, much cognitive science research focused on the possibility of artificial intelligence.
The late 80s and 90s saw the rise of neural networks and connectionism as a research paradigm. The mind was characterized as a set of complex associations, represented as a layered network. Critics argue that there are some phenomena which are better captured by symbolic models, and that connectionist models are often so complex as to have little explanatory power.
Philosophy of Mind and Philosophy of Consiousness
In our center, a special attention is payed not only to cognitive sciences and psychology, but also to philosophy of mind and consciousness. In the philosophy of mind, we usually start with the books by Jaegwon Kim (Philosophy of Mind, Essays in the Metaphysics of Mind). He gives us a good grasp of the basic problems of dualism, functionalism of the mind, behaviorism, physicalism. In the philosophy of consciousness, David J. Chalmers (The Character of Consciousness) gives us a good point of departure for further readings.
Recent Research Projects
The project focuses on the analysis of the cognitive aspects of aesthetic experience as well as the possibility of cognitive explanation of beauty. The main goal is to test the hypothesis that the aesthetic experience is based on perception of cognitive analysable information, and the possibility of identification of cultural, evolutionary and historical resources forming the aesthetic experience. Realization of the project enables us to create the conditions for a wider scientific debate on the cognitive aspects of beauty and art perception and also on justification of the existence of cognitive aesthetics in the humanities. The project aims to promote the integration of scientific and philosophical approaches exploring the aesthetic experience and to provide a platform for wider systematic and interdisciplinar research of subjective experience.
The project focuses on the analysis of the cognitive aspects of aesthetical experience as well as the possibility of cognitive explanation of beauty and aesthetic judgement. The main goal is to test the hypothesis that the aesthetic experience is based on perception of cognitive analysable information, and the identification of cultural, evolutionary and historical resources structuring aesthetic experience. Project implementation can create the conditions for a wider scientific debate on the cognitive aspects of beauty and art perception and also on justification of the existence of cognitive aesthetics in the humanities. The project is aimed to promote the integration of scientific and artistic approaches into the culture and into the higher education. It is also focused on content integration and diversification of the higher education in the form of creating prerequisites for the development of new modern university textbooks and teaching resources for special units of the new study program in Cognitive studies which so far do not have sufficient/ appropriate textbooks and other educational resources.
Topics in the Contemporary Antropology
The topic of the project is the concept of free will and moral responsibility. The question is whether moral responsibiliy requires leeway freedom with alternative possibilities. Frankfurt-type examples seem to suggest that leeway freedom is not necessary and free will is compatible with causal determinism.