Defining 'Cognition'

On the euCognition Web site one of the 'wiki' entries is a collection of proposed definitions of 'cognition' in response to a questionnaire.

My own answer to the question was included after a list of suggested definitions. Here it is:

    In science, arguing about a definition and attempting to produce a
    single binary division (e.g. between cognitive and non-cognitive
    systems/processes/mechanisms) is often a waste of time.

    What we need are surveys of the variety of possibilities, and
    comparative analysis of their implications, requirements, tradeoffs,
    etc. (The philosopher Gilbert Ryle referred to analysing the
    'logical geography' of a system of concepts.)

    Instead of futile and unending debates about which is the best or
    right definition to use we can do more fruitful research into
    similarities and differences between many different subcases,
    whether in natural or artificial systems. For example, many
    definitions of cognition consider only human capabilities and would
    exclude the ability of insects to use landmarks.

    I am not saying there is a continuum of cases: on the contrary both
    in evolution and in the set of possible artificial systems there are
    many interesting discontinuities -- some big some small. We need to
    understand all of them. Focusing on one division that happens to
    interest particular researchers can divert research away from the
    more general kind research which in the long run will provide deeper
    insights into all the discontinuities.

Further discussion of Ryle's notion of 'Logical geography' and the deeper notion of 'Logical topograpy' can be found here.

Installed: 14 Dec 2008

Maintained by Aaron Sloman
School of Computer Science
The University of Birmingham