Determinisms Pt 2

Clyde Davenport (clyde@BUS.HIROSHIMA-PU.AC.JP)
Mon, 8 Apr 1996 14:51:06 +0900

In summary, I would like to make a few points concerning my response
to Van Geiger's posting.

1. In interests of keeping my posting at a reasonable length I have
only examined a few of the points that Van Geiger makes. There is a
danger that in doing so I have taken things out of context. If I have
ended up doing so, here I would like to say that this was not my
intention (I tried to be as faithful as possible to the "spirit" of Van
Geiger's posting).

2. My own evaluation of cognitive science is that it can provide
useful methods of approaching certain problems. One is the
grammar of languages. Here I am thinking of grammaticalization
theory [see Bernd Heine, _Auxiliaries: Cognitive Forces and
Grammaticalization_, Oxford University Press, 1993]. Cognitive
science also has much of use to say in the field of developmental
psychology, and the development of language in children [see
Annette Karmiloff-Smith, _Beyond Modularity: A Developmental
Perspective on Cognitive Science_, MIT Press, 1992]. Another
area is of course artificial intelligence.

3. No doubt, some people could say that since I am no expert in
cognitive science, I am not in any position to evaluate it. In some
ways this is true, but on the other hand, sometimes it is
irresponsible to merely leave things to the "experts." We wind up
with things like nuclear power plants as a result. My own
opinion concerning cognitive science is that while it has application
in a number of limited (yet important) domains, it can only extend
itself into a grand theory of all human experience/culture/
biological evolution, etc. at the price of losing its status as a
patient (and rigorous) science and instead becoming a specious
scientism (or, if you will, a determinism).

4. To me, "Cognitive Science" (not the more modest cognitive
science, without capital letters) steps in to fill the void left
after the demise of behaviorism which for a time used to exercise
power, authority and influence in various social sciences (including
linguistics) but then fizzled out as a grand paradigm. Cognitive
Science's basic species of reductionism is to reduce the human
mind (and cognition) to computational processes. Instead of the
computer being a poor imitation of the human mind (albeit it
would be ridiculous to deny that through cognitive science
computers are getting better and better at imitating certain
processes of the human mind, for example, through the use of
connectionist networks), the brain itself is seen as a poor
imitation of the computer. [My discussion here is based in part
on Jerome Bruner's critique of Cognitive Science in _Acts of
Meaning_, Harvard University Press, 1990; see pages 6-10 for

5. Please correct me if I am mistaken, but at least my impression
is that there is as of yet no way to go from the electrical-chemical
activity of the brain (or individual neurons) to the process of
cognition at the global level of thought/affect/image, etc. How do
various electrical-chemical happenings get translated (if that is
the right word) into cognition (thought, etc.). There are speculative
theories of course, but to my knowledge no one has mapped out the
particulars. In other words, even if one takes a natural scientific
approach (neurobiology) it is impossible to as of yet make any
definitive claims about cognition. [My discussion here was influenced
by Richard McDonough's "A culturist account of folk psychology" in
_The future of folk psychology: Intentionality and cognitive science_,
Cambridge University Press, 1991, pp. 276-277, 282-286]

6. The domain where cognitive science has validity is, thus, still
confined to the social sciences and linguistics. Because of this I
feel it is possible to confront Cognitive Science at the level of natural
language. Cognitive Science feels that it can replace the old folk
psychology of intentionality (and speech acts). I feel though that
Cognitive Science cannot escape this lifeworld because all meaning
(even that of Cognitive Science) is by definition human meaning. Thus,
in the "debate" between Van Geiger and me I have for rhetorical effect
inserted various speech act markers (albeit not exhaustively) into our
"talk." Without the speech acts contained within our "talk," would
either of us be saying anything, or would not our message evaporate
because it would have lost its purpose and goal (which is always a
human one)?
Here, though, I should add that my own attempt to include the
issue of "promise" as a speech act into a commodification theory is
at best tentative. The relation of deceptive false promises (where a
speaker deliberately confuses the addressee in terms of the sincerity
of a promise) and the commodity's "false/empty promise" is more
complex than my oversimple analysis suggested. There might indeed be
a historical relation between the two, albeit I think that the latter is
more fully, more totalistically split off from the lifeworld of
consensual communication.

7. My last point (actually not a point, but a request) is that I would
like Van Geiger (at his convenience, of course) to provide me with a
fuller description of the usage of the word "determinism." In the few
works which I have which treat cognitive science directly I find no
mention of this particular term. The dictionary defines it as "1. a
doctrine that all facts and events exemplify natural laws. 2. a
doctrine that all events have sufficient causes. [1840-1850]"
[Random House Webster's College Dictionary, Random House, 1992] or
more exhaustively "1. a: the doctrine that all acts of the will result
from causes which determine them in such a manner that man has
no alternative modes of action or that the will is still free in the
sense of being uncompelled--called also *ethical determinism*;
compare INDETERMINISM b: the theory that all occurrences in nature
are determined by antecedent causes or take place in accordance
with natural laws--called also *cosmological determinism* c: a
belief in predestination--called also *theological determinism;
compare FATALISM 2: a theory that regards a certain order of
phenomenon (as economic, geographical, or social factors) as the
primary or determining causes for social change, social evolution,
or the appearance of certain cultural traits--compare ECONOMIC
INTERPRETATION OF HISTORY 3: the quality or state of being
determined: a: a natural process wherein all events are determined
b: the determination of mental processes" [Webster's Third New
International Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged,
Merriam Webster, 1986]. Who in the cognitive science field first
used the term "determinism" as a theoretical construct? And, today,
within the field of cognitive science, which schools of thought
emphasize the use of "determinism" as a general cognitive

Clyde Davenport