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Simon Fraser University
Cognitive Science
COGS 100
Michael Picard

Descartes: precursor to COGS - Realities: physical and subnational. - Dreams are a reality. They are a phenomenon. - Science philosophy vs. Church philosophy. Galileo – Suspicion of our reality. Descartes – Easy middle between science and church. 20 C: Steps towards COGS - COGS turn in PSYC (away from behaviorism) We will look first a bit at the successes of behaviorism. - This 20thC COG revolution had two parts: Developments in the theory of computing and theory of info Development of info-processing models of COG capacities and abilities. - But before we retrace these 20 thC steps towards COGS we look at the deep history, in early modern PHIL. th - Noam Chomsky, a major architectndf the 20 C nstes that these developments were really the 2 revolution. The 1 started with Descartes. Chomsky’s contribution: applied computation analysis to language. Descartes - Thrst main contributions of Descartes to what Chomsky has called the 1 COG revolution: 1. Substance dualism: mind is an ultimate reality distinct from body, which is its own ultimate reality. The two interact causally Substance dualism has been largely rejected by sc./philosophers. Mind-body problem it generated, however, remains with us. Dualists believe that the mind and brain are two separate things. 2. Discovery of the Reflex: interpreted as a mechanical action of the body, not subject to voluntary control. Reflects Descartes’ view that the physical/material world is governed exclusively by quantitative (mechanical) laws of nature. “The world is a great machine. The human body is a machine.” 3. Autonomy of psychological (mechanistic/humanistic) explanation Not all human behavior can be explained in mechanical terms. (In principal) Voluntary, reflective behaviors (as in everyday language use) cannot be accounted for in purely physical/mechanical terms. - If you can’t explain something mechanically, what are the alternatives? Descartes: Discovery of the reflex - Vitalism vs. dualism - Although Descartes is credited with the discovery of the reflex, he did not use this term. - The concept, however, is formulated and applied; purely mechanical activity at the sense organs pushes “animal spirits” through the nerves, (which he conceived as hollow). - At the ends of the nerves, these moving “spirits” moved the pineal gland, which alert the soul. - In effect, hydraulic forces govern the interaction between mind and matter. - He did a lot of dissections. - “(…) Movements that do not depend on the mind – beating of heart, digestion of food, nutrition, respiration of those who sleep/awake, walking, singing and similar actions they are performed without the mind thinking about them.” - “(…) It is a virtue of no ratiocination that he performs this action; it does not depend upon his mind, but takes place merely because his senses being affected by the present danger (…)” Descartes on the nerves as mechanisms. - “(…) Depending on their entering…some nerves rather than others, they are able to change the shapes of the muscles into which these nerves are inserted and in the way to move all the members.(…) The grottoes and fountains in the gardens of our finks that the force that makes the water leap from its source is able of itself to move diverse machines(…)” Descartes vs. Aristotle - Bodily functions operate mechanically. “Not necessary on their account to conceive of any vegetative or sensitive soul or any other principal of movement and life than its blood and spirits” He taught plants had souls. - Psyche - Soul - Telos (teleology – purpose, end, final cause and destination) and final causes
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