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Rationality and Cognition

Rationality and Cognition: Against Relativism-Pragmatism

Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 336
  • Book Info
    Rationality and Cognition
    Book Description:

    Cognitive science has posed some radical challenges to philosophy in recent years, particularly in the study of the cognitive activities and capacities of individuals. In this book Nenad Mis̆c̆ević defends naturalistic rationalism against recent relativist attacks.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2099-5
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Part One: The Cognitivist Challenge

    • 1 Philosophy and Cognitive Science
      (pp. 3-36)

      Science has been challenging philosophy in various ways. It has often suggested metaphysical ideas shocking to the prevailing philosophical climate, it has suggested some unorthodox views on morality, and it has challenged received philosophical views of human cognition. In this book I am interested in the last, the challenge to epistemology that has taken many forms. One prominent form is the scientific success of methodologies neglected or looked down on by the philosophical establishment. The most radical challenge, however, has come from the scientific study of cognition. It enters a realm traditionally dominated by philosophers, and its results are bound...

    • 2 Epistemology: The Classical Picture
      (pp. 37-46)

      How does the impact of cognitive science affect epistemology? In order to answer the question we have to take a look at the main topics and problems that epistemology is concerned with and at the main epistemological tradition, which is supposed to be challenged by the results of cognitive science.

      In this book I shall be concerned mainly with the traditional province of epistemology – with goals and values of cognition and with the norms regulating cognitive processes. The evaluation of particular cognitive efforts and results is very common matter – witness the grading of students, or of participants in some knowledge...

    • 3 Relativism-Pragmatism
      (pp. 47-60)

      Relativism about goals and values is an old and a familiar stance. To remind ourselves of its beginnings let us take a look at the following well-known passage from Plato’s ‘Meno,’ where young Meno, recounting Gorgias’s views, speaks about virtue in general:

      MENO: Then there is another virtue for a child, male or female, and another for an old man, free or slave as you like; and a great many more kinds of virtue so that no one need be at loss to say what it is. For every act and every time of life, with reference to each separate...

  5. Part Two: Are Our Representations Truth-Tolerant?

    • 4 The Idea of Truth-Intolerance
      (pp. 63-74)

      In this part of the book I shall defend the central assumptions of the Classical Picture: that human cognitive states can be true or false, that is, can represent the outside world correctly (true beliefs, true percepts, true schemes or prototypes) or incorrectly, and that one can value the transitions between such states classically with respect to their capacity for truth-preservation (or truthlikeness- or plausibility-preservation). Further, I shall defend the view that human cognitive processes can be judged to be rational or irrational by the usual criteria. I defend the view indirectly by criticizing the opposing relativist-pragmatist contention and, in...

    • 5 The Non-Sentential Media
      (pp. 75-133)

      In this chapter I begin to examine the truth-tolerance of particular kinds of non-sentential representations. The Semantic Argument and the Argument from Disposition generally favour truth-tolerance, and we need to test their applicability to particular kinds of representations.

      I start with the simplest non-propositional medium, that is, maps or diagrams. They are common, familiar, and well-studied items from the cognitive-psychological standpoint. Churchland discusses a particular kind, neural maps: map-like representations in the mind/brain. If all maps are truth-(in) tolerant, so are the neural ones. I begin by asking about the truth-hospitality of common maps, where our intuitions are of greater...

  6. Part Three: Truth and Rationality

    • 6 The Value of Truth
      (pp. 135-185)

      In the foregoing part I have endeavoured to show that the truth dimension is available for human cognizers, given their presumed cognitive organization. In Part Three I must go much further and defend the core ideas of the Classical Picture and, above all, the thesis that truth is an important, even central, epistemic value. Remember the strategy of our opponent, the relativist-pragmatist, in his Main Argument. He relies on two premises (1) and (2) and one intermediate conclusion (C2) for his ultimate deconstructive conclusion:

      1.The Irrelevance of Truth: There is no common goal of cognition, because truth is irrelevant....

    • 7 From Truth to Virtue
      (pp. 186-226)

      In this part I complete my defence of rationalism and veritism. With the truth goal I return to the core of the Classical Picture and to the province of normative epistemology in the strict sense dealing with cognitive virtues, rationality and justification. Let me briefly give a word to the relativist-pragmatist. Understandably, on the very first page of his book, Stich tries to separate the domain of epistemic evaluation from the issues of knowledge and truth. He distinguishes between ‘three interrelated projects that traditionally have been pursued in epistemology’: first, evaluation of the methods of enquiry; second, of understanding what...

  7. Conclusion
    (pp. 227-232)

    Let me first briefly summarize the discussion and critique of relativismpragmatism. It has been organized around the main relativistic argument. The argument starts from

    1.The Irrelevance of Truth: There is no common goal of cognition, because truth is irrelevant.

    Next, it borrows from cognitive science the insight that people use various cognitive strategies and inflates it into

    2.Radical Descriptive Pluralism: There are many radically different cognitive strategies and styles.

    This thesis buttresses

    3.The Incomparability Assumption: Since there is no common goal, the strategies are mutually incomparable.

    (1), (2), and (3) entail Radical Normative Pluralism: there is no...

  8. APPENDIX: Theory and Observation
    (pp. 233-276)
  9. Notes
    (pp. 277-306)
  10. References
    (pp. 307-318)
  11. Index
    (pp. 319-325)