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"The Primacy of Phenomenology Over Cognitivism. Towards a Critique of the Computational Mind."
- DAAD-Stipendium zur wissenschaftlichen Aus- und Fortbildung in Deutschland (1. Oktober 2010 - 31. Dezember 2014).
- Abschlußstipendium der Universidad de Costa Rica.
Kontaktadresse an der Universität Würzburg:
Institut für Philosophie – Lehrstuhl I
Erstbetreuer: Prof. Dr. Karl-Heinz Lembeck
Klasse in der Graduiertenschule: „Philosophie, Sprachen, Künste“
Promotion in der Graduiertenschule seit WS 2010/2011.
The main purpose of the dissertation is to explore and characterize the ongoing reception of phenomenology within cognitive science. The so-called “4e approaches” in cognitive science (where “e” is to be understood as in the embodied, embedded, enactive and extended conception of the mind) castigate the mainstream idea that the mind is an information processing system, a representational device and in some sense a computer (see the preface of the *Blackwell Companion to Cognitive Science*, ed. by Bechtel & Graham). Cognitive science, indeed, was founded on the assumption that human intelligent behaviour is actually caused by internal psychological processes that could be best described by means of the computer analogy; a computer being a representational device that manipulates internal symbols following strict orders from a program. The working hypothesis of traditional cognitive science has it that something similar is what the human mind does. On the contrary, 4e cognitive science distances itself from this theory of a mental subject encapsulated in cerebral workings, in order to assign primacy to sensorimotor intelligence, online coping, embodied experience, practical and social embeddedness, and phenomenological perception.
The dissertation, then, has a plot, which will be unfolded as a story: Dreyfus’ early critique of artificial reason in *What Computers Can’t Do*(1972) as the devastating prediction that the artificial intelligence program was doomed to failure, was instrumental in championing the unchallenged philosophical assumptions underlying the computer model of the mind. As a matter of fact, Dreyfus’ work amounts to the earliest reception of phenomenology in cognitive science. Today, a research program of phenomenological (mostly Heideggerian) nature is being developed by researchers and theorists; a surprising fact which led Winograd to remark: “For those who have followed the history of artificial intelligence, it is ironic that this laboratory [at MIT] should become a cradle of ‘Heideggerian AI’” (“Heidegger and the Design of Computer Systems”).
Perceived at first as an in-principle argument against the possibility of artificial intelligence, this phenomenological intrusion in cognitive science is now seen as integral part of its history, exhibiting promising possibilities for sketching an alternative paradigm: “whether the Cartesian resuppositions of (most) AI should be replaced by a neo-Heideggerian approach” (Margaret Boden, “AI’s Half a Century”). A bunch of new approaches have been developed ever since either under Dreyfus’ influence or independently, and it is the purpose of this doctoral dissertation to show the contours of the conceptual history of this new way of approaching problems traditionally tackled by the (analytic) philosophy of mind, while mapping out the most important discussions and recent theoretical debates of the field. Given that phenomenology has been mistakenly construed as introspection by both critics and qualia enthusiasts, it shall be attempted to correct the caricaturization of phenomenological philosophy as naïveintrospection, as well as to offer not only a clarification of phenomenology’s true aims and scope, but also a case in which phenomenology will stand as a crucial option in the new studies of cognition.
The phenomenological tradition has always showed an interest, not in those objects which have been already constituted, but above all in the conditions of their constitution. This means that the phenomenological question is not about which objects are to be recognized as being part of cognition, but rather how it is that one ends up recognizing them. The kernel of many phenomenological concepts (intentionality, reduction, meaning, evidence, etc.) speak of the radicality of phenomenology as the attempt, not to present us with objects or objectified processes, but with the ways that have led to their evidence. This phenomenological tendency
toward non-objective phenomena will prove essential for understanding “what computers still can’t do” and why. The final goal of the dissertation is to show how one can develop an alternative view of human cognition, while devising the depths of human experience as a whole.