The Mechanisation of the Mind – On the Origins of Cognitive Science.
by Jean-Pierre Dupuy, translated by Malcolm DeBevoise
(Princeton University Press, New French Thought series ISBN 0-691-02574-6)
Original reference provided by Jorn the original blogger.
Earlier partial review here, with some updated highlights as follow:
Dupuy’s main theme is the disappointment that Cybernetics and subsequently Cognitive Science failed to exploit opportunities for important links with Philosophy of Mind and Social Sciences, which could have generated important advances and assured the future importance of these subjects. Unfortunately the arrogant temptations to claim a Grand Unifying Theory of Mind and Matter were too great and will prove to be the downfall of Cybernetics and Cognitive Science and spin-off subjects like AI and Second Order Cybernetics, unless the lessons are learned. Each new philosophy which believes itself to contain the sole answer is doomed to repeat the mistakes of its predecessors without “modesty and critical reflection”.
Interestingly, the whole story of these subjects and their near misses with countless schools of philosophical thought, proceeding more by misunderstanding than any common knowledge, is a microcosm of the subject itself – a case of a too complex system with emergent “organic” properties that cannot be attributed to any one of the elements, and who’s observable “phenomenal” outcomes could have been vastly different with only a few minor changes to internal or external connections or events.
For someone who claims “literature [to be] the highest form of knowledge”, it is surprising that Dupuy ultimately considers that “the existence of a symbolic level that is structured like a language and functions like a machine – does not stand up to critical analysis” Presumably its the “and” that he has trouble with, so perhaps he is not dismissing the lingusitic element of knowledge, just the finite, programmable aspects of a language built into the Turing machine assumptions.
Ultimately the theme of “subjectless processes” or “knowledge without a subject” is decisive in the view of knowledge “that cannot be appropriated by any individual consciousness” …. quoting Hayek …. [Knowledge] is embodied in norms rules, conventions, intutions, which are themselves incorporated in individual minds in the form of abstract schemata. We can make use of so much experience, not because we [literally] possess such experience, but because it has become [sub-consciously] incorporated into the schemata of thought which guide us.” I think Heylighen et al would approve of the “process view” of knowledge.
Knowledge, nor any mental state, is no more attributable to a single human subject, than it is to a group of individuals. Both are complex systems of which knowledge is an emergent property attributable to neither the whole “pseudo-subject” nor the individual. For the single human the complex system consists not only of the physical neural network of the brain, and the physio-biological systems around it, but also the complexity of both the conscious and sub-conscious mental systems. For the group, the arbitrary interactions on many levels are the complexity.
Other goodies. On my thread of rationalisation / reification destroys knowledge ; Axiomatisating complexity [has] the effect of making it disappear, [rather than explaining or understanding it]. Also paradoxical element of “reductio ad absurdum” – beware the pitfalls of reductionism (Leon).
Many, many secondary references on every “ism” imaginable. Hayek looks like a good place to go next. So many individuals, works and schools of thought referenced that Dupuy probably offers an excellent framework to organise the analysis around. An advance on my manifesto and dissertation in any event.