Publication 2120

Stewart J. (1996) Cognition = life: Implications for higher-level cognition. Behavioural Processes 35: 311–326. Fulltext at
Any global consideration of the theme ‘Evolution and Cognition’ requires a clear definition of what we mean by the term ‘cognition’. In contemporary cognitive science, there are two distinct paradigms with contrasting definitions of cognition. The computational theory of mind is based on the syntaxical manipulation of symbolic representations; this paradigm is objectivist because the postulate of a unique independent reality is necessary as a referential basis for semantic grounding of the symbols. The alternative ‘constructivist’ paradigm is based on the biological metaphor ‘cognition = life’ and programmatically follows the evolution of cognition from bacteria to civilized humans; it is non-objectivist. There is a definite tendency to consider that the computational theory is appropriate for ‘high-level’ human cognition, whereas the constructivist approach is appropriate for ‘low-level’ cognition. This article argues against such a division of labour, since the issue of objectivism is a watershed which continues to demarcate the computational and constructivist paradigms in their respective approaches to higher-level cognition.

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