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The end of science? On human cognitive limitations and how to overcome them

Boudry, Maarten and Vlerick, Michael and Edis, Taner (2019) The end of science? On human cognitive limitations and how to overcome them. [Preprint]

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Abstract

What, if any, are the limits of human understanding? Epistemic pessimists, sobered by our humble evolutionary origins, have argued that some parts of the universe will forever remain beyond our ken. But what exactly does it mean to say that humans are ‘cognitively closed’ to some parts of the world, or that some problems will forever remain ‘mysteries’? In this paper we develop a conceptual toolbox for thinking about different forms and modalities of cognitive limitation, which are often conflated by the so-called ‘new mysterians’. We distinguish between representational access (the ability to develop accurate scientific representations of reality) and imaginative understanding (immediate, intuitive comprehension of those representations), as well as between different modalities of cognitive limitation. Next, we look at tried-and-tested strategies for overcoming our innate cognitive limitations, drawing from the literature on distributed cognition and the ‘extended mind’. Most importantly, we argue that this collection of mind-extension devices is combinatorial and open-ended. In the end, we turn the table on the mysterians: for every alleged ‘mystery’, they should demonstrate that no possible combination of mind extension devices will bring us any closer to a solution.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Boudry, Maartenmaartenboudry@gmail.com
Vlerick, Michael
Edis, Taner
Keywords: new mysterianism; cognitive closure; epistemic boundedness; imaginative understanding; representational access
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Evolutionary Theory
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science
General Issues > Philosophers of Science
Depositing User: Maarten Maarten Boudry
Date Deposited: 04 Jan 2020 02:15
Last Modified: 04 Jan 2020 02:15
Item ID: 16782
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Evolutionary Theory
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science
General Issues > Philosophers of Science
Date: October 2019
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/16782

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