Ep. 26 - Awakening from the Meaning Crisis - Cognitive Science



my notes

  • Different levels of the reality of mind with different disciplines, vocabularies, argumentation, measurement, ways of gathering evidence.
  • Levels of reality and disciplines
  • Fragments us


  • Helps to formulate and specialize people - its a good thing, but it is problematic: fragments us: mind becomes equivocal
  • Equivocation: when fall into confusion because don’t keep track of meaning of your terms. Same word but not the same thing.
    • Nothing is better than long life and happiness
    • A peanut butter sandwich is better than nothing
    • Therefore a PBS is better than long life and happiness
  • The various levels of reality influence one another but the disciplines don’t capture that.
  • That’s why creating hybrids like psycho-linguistics
  • How to study the relationship between the levels? Has to be an astute practice. Can’t just equivocate.
  • Philosophy is the discipline that has us take conceptual care to bridge between these different vocabularies and methodologies
  • The discipline that tries to come up with a philosophically astute integration between these disciplines so that we can avoid equivocation is cognitive science
  • CS already addressing one of the ways in which the meaning crisis in which scientific worldview fragmenting us falling into ignorance about who and what we are.
  • Addressing meaning generation process.
  • Different ways to practice CS - he’s not neutral - presenting what he thinks is the best way
  • Some have “interfaith dialogue” with other disciplines.
  • Problem is that not really capturing why people are drawn to creating bridges: it’s either too weak or too strong.
  • Best vision of CS is “synoptic integration”
    • We need to build something between the disciplines that addresses the equivocations, deals with the fragmentation and fills in the ignorance: tells us about how the levels are all casually interacting and constraning each other
  • Not saying the same thing, but not saying different things either: need bridging vocabulary


  • Metaphor: The difference gets me outside of my framing, step back through the difference, look through the identity - allows to see and understand the other in a different way
  • Want a metaphor that balances these well - apt
  • Metaphors provoke insight

(seems like a similar role to myth)

  • Allows to keep the differences but find relevant identities in an insightful way
  • Step back from behaviour into linguistics, look - keep distance, what can see in psychology through the lens of linguistics
  • Multi-aptness: trying to bridge the gap between multiple domains
  • Start to create an overarching integration.
  • Plausibility:
      1. high probability (not the one mean)
      1. reasonable, making good sense, deserving to be taken seriously
  • When say theory is elegant saying it is multi-apt
  • Also want them produced in a certain way: many convergent independent lines of investigation
  • Convergence: We prefer information that comes in multiple senses: ex: seeing and hearing better than just hearing - multiple channels, less chance not a distortion → bias reduction
  • Convergence gives bias reduction
  • Trustworthiness
  • Conspiracy theories: if have just elegance but not produced in trustworthymanner

(this is part of the problem I have with taking the religious texts as history, or believing in God. There is some elegance there - which theists bring up all the time - it seems to “explain” things, but I don’t consider the evidence reliable - or trustworthy - enough to reach a confident conclusion on it. The psycho-technology aspect of religion provides a more plausible reason for its longevity)

  • Opposite: have tremendous convergence, but little insight or integration: trivial
  • Doesn’t mean false, but no transformative power, makes no difference, affords no insight
  • Can equivocate on these.
  • Daniel Dennett: deepity
  • Also can say something that seems deep, then challenged and say no I meant this trivial thing
  • Can lead to bullshitting ourselves
  • Abuse suggests how we can improve it
  • Want high convergence and high elegance = profound
  • Profound =/ true: means very reasonable and should be taken very seriously
  • Cognitive Science trying to bring about profound synoptic integration, create constructs that bridge between the disciplines that addresses equivocation, fragmentation, and ignorance

The Science of Cognition: Intelligence

  • Faculty in us for core meaning capacity = intelligence, makes you a cognitive agent. Working with meaning
  • Test for intelligence: general problem solver
  • If try and make intelligence try to make a problem solver
  • Cup holding water very limited in problem solving capacity
  • We are capable of solving a wide variety of problems in a wide variety of ways
  • Newell and Simon: general problem solver
  • Intelligence =/ rational
  • We should care not about intelligence but about how rational we can become
  • Want intelligence separate from knowledge
  • Want to ask what is it to solve a problem
  • Hallmark of rationality is valuing the process, not just fixating on the conclusion
  • Newell and Simon: deeply influencial:
  • 4 basic features for a problem:
      1. Difference from the state you are in (initial state) and goal state (goal state)
    • System has to represent the initial state and goal state.
      1. actions/operations: change the state I’m in initially to another state

    1. path constraints:
    • Don’t want to just find any solution. One way to make lunch for self is to burn down house. Will cook my food. Don’t want to solve this problem in a way that causes other problems
  • Solving a problem is to have a sequence of operations that will transform the initial state into the goal state while obeying the path constraints