What has philosophy got to do with cognitive science?


Methodological relevance

Philosophy is an activity that relies mainly on the analysis of concepts and reasoning (logic).


  • Scientist - New discovery X! New theory Y explains discovery X!
  • Philosopher - Does theory Y really explain X? Is Y really the best explanation of X?
  • Philosopher - Theories A, B, C all assume P. Is P really true?


  • Philosopher - Theories A, B, C all make use of concept X. What does concept X really mean?
    • Example - computation, representation, grammar, innateness, ...


  • Philosophical discussion might talk about observations and experiments. But philosophical research usually do not directly involve observations and experiments.
  • However,
    • Very often philosophers rely on intuitions in their arguments which are often empirical assumptions in disguise.
    • Some would argue that the distinction between pure reasoning and observations is not a sharp one.

Functions / roles

Van Gelder suggests that philosophy can perform such functions within a scientific discipline:

  • The Pioneer - philosophy as baby science nursery
  • The Building Inspector - examining the foundations of a subject
  • The Cartographer - mapping out the big picture
  • The Archivist - a collection of past wisdom and consensus
  • The Gadfly - stirring up trouble