The Virtual Bookcase Reviews of 'What Is Cognitive Science?':
Reviewer Rob Slade wrote:
It has been said that the field of artificial intelligence is not a field. AI,
so the proposal goes, is a blanket term for a series of areas; such as expert
systems, pattern recognition, and so forth; which will be discovered as time
progresses. Artificial intelligence will therefore always be the undiscovered
"leftover" which remains behind.
A similar, though somewhat reversed, statement is applied to cognitive science.
Cognitive science, this view holds, is a collection of unanswered questions
from a variety of fields related to the topic of thought.
Von Eckardt is attempting to refute this position. She brings leading writing
in the fields (though primarily from philosophy) together to attempt to form a
foundational basis: to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, a sort of "mere cognitive
The result is a solid basis for introduction to the field and study, but cannot
be said to be an unqualified success. As early as the Introduction, Von
Eckardt assumes that human thinking activity is central to cognitive science.
Yet many in the field of artificial intelligence, for example, are intrigued by
the idea of a completely different form of thought. (It is possible that
either Von Eckardt or these very researchers would eliminate them from the
cognitive science area.)
The attempt to make the book intelligible to anyone interested in the
foundations of cognitive science is, again, only partially complete. The
dedicated and intelligent amateur should be able to work through it, but a
background in linguistics and philosophy would be a significant asset. The
jargon is not impenetrable, but is quite heavy. The author does not help by
defining new terminology along the way. ("Adult, normal, typical cognition" is
instatiated to "ANTCOG" on page six.) While some computer science concepts are
defined in detail, the "logical positivism" which is vital to the appendix on
the origins of cognitive science doesn't even have an entry in the glossary.
copyright Robert M. Slade, 1995
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