Information in Explaining Cognition: How to Evaluate It?

Philosophies 7 (2):28 (2022)
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Abstract

The claims that “The brain processes information” or “Cognition is information processing” are accepted as truisms in cognitive science. However, it is unclear how to evaluate such claims absent a specification of “information” as it is used by neurocognitive theories. The aim of this article is, thus, to identify the key features of information that information-based neurocognitive theories posit. A systematic identification of these features can reveal the explanatory role that information plays in specific neurocognitive theories, and can, therefore, be both theoretically and practically important. These features can be used, in turn, as desiderata against which candidate theories of information may be evaluated. After discussing some characteristics of explanation in cognitive science and their implications for “information”, three notions are briefly introduced: natural, sensory, and endogenous information. Subsequently, six desiderata are identified and defended based on cognitive scientific practices. The global workspace theory of consciousness is then used as a specific case study that arguably posits either five or six corresponding features of information.

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Nir Fresco
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

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