, Volume 114, Issue 3, pp 463–495

Grades of Explanation in Cognitive Science

  • Richard Montgomery


I sketch an explanatory framework that fits a variety of contemporary research programs in cognitive science. I then investigate the scope and the implications of this framework. The framework emphasizes (a) the explanatory role played by the semantic content of cognitive representations, and (b) the important “mechanistic”, non-intentional dimension of cognitive explanations. I show how both of these features are present simultaneously in certain varieties of cognitive explanation. I also consider the explanatory role played by grounded representational content, that is, content evaluated by appeal to its truth, falsity, accuracy, inaccuracy and other relational properties.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Burge, T.: 1979, ‘Individualism and the Mental’, Midwest Studies in Philosophy 4, 73–121.Google Scholar
  2. Burge, T.: 1986, ‘Individualism and Psychology’, Philosophical Review 95, 3–46.Google Scholar
  3. Cherniak, C.: 1981, ‘Minimal Rationality’, Mind 90, 161–183.Google Scholar
  4. Churchland, P.S.: 1986, Neurophilosophy, The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  5. Cummins, R.: 1983, Psychological Explanation, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  6. Davidson, D.: 1970, ‘Mental Events’, in J. W. Swanson (eds.), Experience and Theory, University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst.Google Scholar
  7. Dennett, D.: 1971, ‘Intentional Systems’, Journal of Philosophy 68, 87–106.Google Scholar
  8. Feldman, F.: 1974, ‘An Alleged Defect in Gettier Counterexamples’, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 52, 68–69.Google Scholar
  9. Finke, R. A., T. B. Ward, and S. M. Smith: 1992, Creative Cognition: Theory, Research, and Applications, The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  10. Fodor, J. A.: 1974, ‘Special Sciences’, Synthese 28, 77–115.Google Scholar
  11. Fodor, J. A.: 1980, ‘Methodological Solipsism Considered as a Research Strategy in Cognitive Psychology’, The Behavioral and Brain Sciences 3, 63–109.Google Scholar
  12. Fodor, J. A.: 1987, Psychosemantics, The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  13. Fodor, J. A.: 1990, ‘Making Mind Matter More’, in A Theory of Content and Other Essays, The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  14. Geertz, C.: 1973, ‘Ideology as a Cultural System’, in The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays, Basic Books, New York.Google Scholar
  15. Gettier, E.: 1963, ‘Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?’, Analysis 23, 121–123.Google Scholar
  16. Gibson, J. J.: 1979, The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception, Houghton Mifflin, Boston.Google Scholar
  17. Goldman, A.: 1986, Epistemology and Cognition, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  18. Hardcastle, V.: 1992, ‘Reduction, Explanatory Extension, and the Mind/Brain Sciences’, Philosophy of Science 59, 408–428.Google Scholar
  19. Haugeland, J.: 1981, ‘Semantic Engines: An Introduction to Mind Design’, in J. Haugeland (ed.), Mind Design, The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  20. Haugeland, J.: 1985, Artificial Intelligence: The Very Idea, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  21. Heil, J. and A. Mele (eds.): 1993, Mental Causation, Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  22. Horwich, P.: 1990, Truth, Basil Blackwell, New York.Google Scholar
  23. Hull, D.: 1988, The Scientific Process: An Evolutionary Account of the Social and Conceptual Development of Science, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  24. Kitcher, P.: 1988, ‘Marr's Computational Theory of Vision’, Philosophy of Science 55, 1–24.Google Scholar
  25. Lakatos, I.: 1970, ‘Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programs’, in I. Lakatos and A. Musgrave (eds.), Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  26. Marr, D.: 1982, Vision, W. H. Freeman, San Francisco.Google Scholar
  27. Montgomery, R.: 1989, ‘Does Epistemology Reduce to Cognitive Psychology?’, Philosophia 19, 245–263.Google Scholar
  28. Montgomery, R.: 1995a, ‘Non-Cartesian Explanations Meet the Problem of Mental Causation’, The Southern Journal of Philosophy 33, 221–241.Google Scholar
  29. Montgomery, R.: 1995b, ‘Explanation and Evaluation in Cognitive Science’, Philosophy of Science 62, 261–282.Google Scholar
  30. Nozick, R.: 1993, The Nature of Rationality, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.Google Scholar
  31. Perkins, D. N.: 1984, The Mind's Best Work, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  32. Putnam, H.: 1975, ‘The Meaning of “Meaning”’, Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 7, 131–93.Google Scholar
  33. Putnam, H.: 1978, ‘Reference and Understanding’, in Meaning and the Moral Sciences, Routledge, Boston.Google Scholar
  34. Rawls, J.: 1971, A Theory of Justice, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  35. Ryle, G.: 1949, The Concept of Mind, Barnes and Noble, New York.Google Scholar
  36. Salmon, W.: 1994, ‘Causality Without Counterfactuals’, Philosophy of Science 61, 297–312.Google Scholar
  37. Segal, G. and E. Sober: 1991, ‘The Causal Efficacy of Content’, Philosophical Studies 63, 1–30.Google Scholar
  38. Sejnowski, T. J. and C. R. Rosenberg: 1988, ‘Learning and Representation in Connectionist Models’, in M. S. Gazzaniga (ed.), Perspectives in Memory Research, The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  39. Smolensky, P.: 1988, ‘On the Proper Treatment of Connectionism’, The Behavioral and Brain Sciences 11, 1–23.Google Scholar
  40. Smolensky, P.: 1991, ‘Connectionism, Constituency and the Language of Thought’, in B. Loewer and G. Rey (eds.), Meaning in Mind: Fodor and his Critics, Basil Blackwell, Oxford.Google Scholar
  41. Tversky, A. and D. Kahneman: 1974, ‘Judgement Under Uncertainty; Heuristics and Biases’, Science 185, 1124–1131.Google Scholar
  42. Unger, P.: 1968, ‘An Analysis of Factual Knowledge’, Journal of Philosophy 65, 157–170.Google Scholar
  43. Winograd, T.: 1972, Understanding Natural Language, Academic Press, New York.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Montgomery
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyWest Virginia UniversityMorgantownU.S.A.

Personalised recommendations