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Neuroethology and the Philosophy of Cognitive Science

Brian L. Keeley
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 67, Supplement. Proceedings of the 1998 Biennial Meetings of the Philosophy of Science Association. Part II: Symposia Papers (Sep., 2000), pp. S404-S417
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/188683
Page Count: 14
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Neuroethology and the Philosophy of Cognitive Science
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Abstract

Neuroethology is a branch of biology that studies the neural basis of naturally occurring animal behavior. This science, particularly a recent program called computational neuroethology, has a similar structure to the interdisciplinary endeavor of cognitive science. I argue that it would be fruitful to conceive of cognitive science as the computational neuroethology of humans. However, there are important differences between the two sciences, including the fact that neuroethology is much more comparative in its perspective. Neuroethology is a biological science and as such, evolution is a central notion. Its target organisms are studied in the context of their evolutionary history. The central goal of this paper is to argue that cognitive science can and ought to be more comparative in its approach to cognitive phenomena in humans. I show how the domain of cognitive phenomena can be divided up into four different classes, individuated by the relative phylogenetic uniqueness of the behavior. I then describe how comparative evidence can enrich our understanding in each of these different arenas.

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