What Is Cognition?

Consciousness is the biggest mystery. It may be the largest outstanding obstacle in our quest for a scientific understanding of the universe.

- David Chalmers, The Conscious Mind

Podcast of the Day

Metacognition is cognition about cognition – what we do when we assess our cognitive states, such as wondering whether we’ve remembered a phone number correctly. In The Philosophy of Metacognition: Mental Agency and Self-Awareness (Oxford University Press, 2014) Joelle Proust considers the nature of metacognition from a naturalistic perspective, drawing on recent psychological research as well as a range of philosophical work in philosophy of mind and philosophy of action.

Listen to Joelle Proust discuss The Philosophy of Metacognition on the New Books in Philosophy Podcast

Video of the Day

Short Article of the Day

“One of the big mysteries of human cognition is how the brain takes ideas and puts them together in new ways to form new thoughts,” said Frankland, the lead author of the study. “Most people can understand ‘Joe Biden beat Vladimir Putin at Scrabble’ even though they’ve never thought about that situation, because, as long as you know who Putin is, who Biden is, what Scrabble is, and what it means to win, you’re able to put these concepts together to understand the meaning of the sentence. That’s a basic, but remarkable, cognitive ability.”...

But how are such thoughts constructed? According to one theory, the brain does it by representing conceptual variables, answers to recurring questions of meaning such as “What was done?” and “Who did it?” and “To whom was it done?” A new thought such as “Biden beats Putin” can then be built by making “beating” the value of the action variable, “Biden” the value of the “agent” variable (“Who did it?”), and “Putin” the value of the “patient” variable (“To whom was it done?”). Frankland and Greene are the first to point to specific regions of the brain that encode such mental syntax.

Continue reading Peter Reuell's short article: How the Brain Builds New Thoughts

Further Reading

Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary study of mind and intelligence, embracing philosophy, psychology, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, linguistics, and anthropology. Its intellectual origins are in the mid-1950s when researchers in several fields began to develop theories of mind based on complex representations and computational procedures....

Attempts to understand the mind and its operation go back at least to the Ancient Greeks, when philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle tried to explain the nature of human knowledge. The study of mind remained the province of philosophy until the nineteenth century, when experimental psychology developed.

Continue read the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Cognitive Science by Paul Thagard

Related Topics

Attention | Consciousness | Intelligence

Each day I post short quotes by great thinkers on a particular philosophical, scientific or historical topic, along with videos, interviews and articles by contemporary thinkers that explore each topic in more detail. Find me on Facebook or Twitter or enter your email below to learn about the ideas that helped shape our world.

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