Minds and Machines

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 1–25 | Cite as

Levels of description and explanation in cognitive science

  • William Bechtel
Critical Exchange


The notion of levels has been widely used in discussions of cognitive science, especially in discussions of the relation of connectionism to symbolic modeling of cognition. I argue that many of the notions of levels employed are problematic for this purpose, and develop an alternative notion grounded in the framework of mechanistic explanation. By considering the source of the analogies underlying both symbolic modeling and connectionist modeling, I argue that neither is likely to provide an adequate analysis of processes at the level at which cognitive theories attempt to function: One is drawn from too low a level, the other from too high a level. If there is a distinctly cognitive level, then we still need to determine what are the basic organizational principles at that level.

Key words

Connectionism symbol processing levels of organization reduction mechanistic explanation 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • William Bechtel
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyGeorgia State UniversityUSA

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