Lecture 10

Dr. Ron Mallon                                                            Philosophy of Cognitive Science



1.  Levels of explanation as a methodology


Ecological level:  (Knowledge level, Semantic Level, Intentional Level)

     specification of the problem to be solved.


1.  May make reference to the context of the cognitive system.

2.  A variety of problem statements are possible.

3.  Problems that may be specified need not be limited to ‘intentional’ or belief-desire kinds of psychological processes.


Computational level: (algorithmic level)

      specification of the algorithm


1.  May worry about specifying a function with the same input-output relation.

2.  Cognitive scientists often want more: they want to state an algorithm that is isomorphic in key ways to the actual process of computation that an organism employs.


Some problems:

a.  What makes computational level computation?  Compare a thermometer or an odometer - do they compute?

b.  What are the essential features of a particular computational method?  E.g. what counts as getting the algorithm right?


Physical level:  (implementation level)

     Specification of the material that carries out the computation.



One can add levels between these levels (e.g. sublevels of problem specification or of algorithm specification).


One can also blur the boundaries between these levels.