Boris Lorenc (2000) Sorting Dichotomies out -- all the way out. Psycoloquy: 11(095) Ai Cognitive Science (22)

Volume: 11 (next, prev) Issue: 095 (next, prev) Article: 22 (next prev first) Alternate versions: ASCII Summary
PSYCOLOQUY (ISSN 1055-0143) is sponsored by the American Psychological Association (APA).
Psycoloquy 11(095): Sorting Dichotomies out -- all the way out

Commentary on Green on AI-Cognitive Science

Boris Lorenc
Computer Science Department
University College Skovde
Box 408, 541 28 Skovde, Sweden


I am joining Green's call for sorting out "deep conceptual difficulties" in psychology. To do that, one must start out somewhere. And Green, inadvertently, suggests a candidate departure point by accepting the inside/outside dichotomy, seemingly without argument. A psychology that would transcend it (and the related dichotomies) would provide a significant new contribution. I suggest phenomenal experience plus a constructivist approach (and, generally, a recursive way of thinking) as alternatives worth considering for the task.


artificial intelligence, behaviorism, cognitive science, computationalism, Fodor, functionalism, Searle, Turing Machine, Turing Test.
1. It is a beautiful target article (Green 2000), but it reveals a sign of an inability to do what it proposes: to transcend the present fuzziness of our understanding of psychology.

2. The article ends: "Internal structure and function are even more important" (Green, 2000:21). And it is the word "internal" that is significant here; it reveals traces of a dualistic position, not a substance dualism, but still holding onto dichotomies such as inner/outer, private/public, observable/non-observable, and ultimately mind/body. It is this divide that needs to be transcended in order to make more sense of psychology. And the change will not come by just perpetuating old views.

3. What I propose is to awaken the old radical idea of putting phenomenal experience as the corner stone of this new psychology (and philosophy -- this is essentially what, I blush to admit, Husserl intended as the purpose of phenomenology). One should be reminded that Husserl, in questioning both the certitude concerning "objective", "real" things, and that concerning "internal" entities (the "I"), thereby opened up the possibility of building a science (and a philosophy) on the only thing that then remains -- phenomenal experiences (cf. e.g. "The Amsterdam Lectures", Husserl, 1997 [given in 1928]).

4. You would respond, though, that this isn't sufficient, and, what's more, that this isn't plausible: there ARE permanent, lasting objects in our "real" world. To which I can say that in order to bring about a change with respect to understanding mind, you need to make some decisions (in a Heideggerian sense, I blush even more to admit). Given that "the only game in town" seems to have been of limited use with respect to understanding minds, one MUST open up new possibilities in order to be able to proceed. And the idea I just turned the readers' attention to is one such possibility.

5. So, the permanent objects mentioned are our creation as much as "redness", "justice", or "Thursdays" might be. That they "work", say in physics, by enabling us to predict events etc, is the result of our (and other cognising systems aren't much different in this respect) biological, historical and societal activity that creates such objects, these being, in some sense, biologically, historically, and socially relevant to that which already exists. In this context, reliance on Maturana and Varela's notion of "structural coupling" might turn out to be of great importance. In general, the fact that our understanding of ourselves should need to rely on recursive models might turn out to be decisive in making some progress.

6. In this short comment I am not of course proposing a new philosophy (and psychology) of mind, but just trying to join you in advocating the need to pursue lines of investigation within cognitive science other than those of the (present day) computer theory of mind (including Fodor's computational functionalism). The line I particularly have in mind is the phenomenological and constructivist one.


Green, C.D. (2000) Is AI the Right Method for Cognitive Science? PSYCOLOQUY 11(061)

Husserl, E. (1997). Psychological and transcendental phenomenology and the confrontation with Heidegger (1927-1931). Collected works, Vol. 6. Edited and translated by Thomas Sheehan and Richard E. Palmer. Dordrecht : Kluwer.

Volume: 11 (next, prev) Issue: 095 (next, prev) Article: 22 (next prev first) Alternate versions: ASCII Summary