Limits of Computational Explanation of Cognition

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Abstract

In this chapter, I argue that some aspects of cognitive phenomena cannot be explained computationally. In the first part, I sketch a mechanistic account of computational explanation that spans multiple levels of organization of cognitive systems. In the second part, I turn my attention to what cannot be explained about cognitive systems in this way. I argue that information-processing mechanisms are indispensable in explanations of cognitive phenomena, and this vindicates the computational explanation of cognition. At the same time, it has to be supplemented with other explanations to make the mechanistic explanation complete, and that naturally leads to explanatory pluralism in cognitive science. The price to pay for pluralism, however, is the abandonment of the traditional autonomy thesis asserting that cognition is independent of implementation details.