Take Home Exam, Philosophy of Cognitive Science

DUE WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 4                      Dr. Ron Mallon


(1)  Limit each answer to 500 words MAXIMUM. 

(2)  Your answer should be your own.  Discussing the questions and material with others okay, but you should not try to decide on a common answer.  This will only make each of your answers seem less original and result in a lower grade.

(3)  You do not need to, and should not, use any material other than assigned readings and class notes to answer these questions.

(4)  You should not quote extensive material in your answer.  We want your answer, not a copy of what the book, article, or notes said.

(5)  Plagiarism of any sort will result in a failing grade.

(6) Good luck with the exam, and thank you in advance for your hard work!


Answer 1 of the following:

1.  Sterelny writes:  “The possibility of a direct physical explanation of information processors poses a problem.  If we are, for instance, to explain the extraordinary facial physiology, vocal structures and ears of bats we need to know that they find their way around the world by echo location.  Indeed we need to know the kinds of echolocation they use.  We need a story of how the creature can do what it does.  Why then cannot we rest content with two levels: an ecological level telling us what the mind can do, and a neurological theory, or suit of theories, giving an account of mechanism.  What is the point of a computational level?”

    Respond to Sterelny’s question and defend your answer.


2.  Sterelny discusses a ‘three level’ view of the mind, including an ecological, computational, and physical level.  How does connectionism fit into this three level framework?  Defend your answer.


Answer 1 of the following:

3.  Explain and assess an argument against connectionist architectures arising either from the systematicity or from the productivity of thought.


4.  Explain and assess the best two arguments for connectionist views of mind.  What do they show about connectionism?


Answer 1 of the following:

5.  Sterelny claims that computational, representational accounts offer a ‘naturalistic’ view of the mind that avoids ‘magical theories of mind’.  Is Sterelny correct?  How would Churchland assess Sterelny’s claim?  Is Churchland correct?


6. If folk psychology is a craft rather than a theory is it still vunerable to elimination by neuroscience, evolutionary psychology and other modern scientific methods of understanding human minds?  Why or why not?