• The Nature of Dynamical Explanation
    Philosophy of Science 78 (2): 238-263. 2011.
    The received view of dynamical explanation is that dynamical cognitive science seeks to provide covering law explanations of cognitive phenomena. By analyzing three prominent examples of dynamicist research, I show that the received view is misleading: some dynamical explanations are mechanistic explanations, and in this way resemble computational and connectionist explanations. Interestingly, these dynamical explanations invoke the mathematical framework of dynamical systems theory to describe …Read more
  • The philosophical conception of mechanistic explanation is grounded on a limited number of canonical examples. These examples provide an overly narrow view of contemporary scientific practice, because they do not reflect the extent to which the heuristic strategies and descriptive practices that contribute to mechanistic explanation have evolved beyond the well-known methods of decomposition, localization, and pictorial representation. Recent examples from evolutionary robotics and network appro…Read more
  • Whereas most branches of neuroscience are thought to provide mechanistic explanations, systems neuroscience is not. Two reasons are traditionally cited in support of this conclusion. First, systems neuroscientists rarely, if ever, rely on the dual strategies of decomposition and localization. Second, they typically emphasize organizational properties over the properties of individual components. In this paper, I argue that neither reason is conclusive: researchers might rely on alternative strat…Read more
  • Bayesian reverse-engineering considered as a research strategy for cognitive science
    with Frank Jäkel
    Synthese 193 (12): 3951-3985. 2016.
    Bayesian reverse-engineering is a research strategy for developing three-level explanations of behavior and cognition. Starting from a computational-level analysis of behavior and cognition as optimal probabilistic inference, Bayesian reverse-engineers apply numerous tweaks and heuristics to formulate testable hypotheses at the algorithmic and implementational levels. In so doing, they exploit recent technological advances in Bayesian artificial intelligence, machine learning, and statistics, bu…Read more
  • A Perceptual Account of Symbolic Reasoning
    Frontiers in Psychology 5. 2014.
    People can be taught to manipulate symbols according to formal mathematical and logical rules. Cognitive scientists have traditionally viewed this capacity—the capacity for symbolic reasoning—as grounded in the ability to internally represent numbers, logical relationships, and mathematical rules in an abstract, amodal fashion. We present an alternative view, portraying symbolic reasoning as a special kind of embodied reasoning in which arithmetic and logical formulae, externally represented as …Read more
  • Models and mechanisms in network neuroscience
    Philosophical Psychology 32 (1): 23-51. 2018.
    This paper considers the way mathematical and computational models are used in network neuroscience to deliver mechanistic explanations. Two case studies are considered: Recent work on klinotaxis by Caenorhabditis elegans, and a longstanding research effort on the network basis of schizophrenia in humans. These case studies illustrate the various ways in which network, simulation and dynamical models contribute to the aim of representing and understanding network mechanisms in the brain, and thu…Read more
  • Mechanisms in Cognitive Science
    In Phyllis McKay Illari & Stuart Glennan (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Mechanisms and Mechanical Philosophy, Routledge. pp. 389-400. 2017.
    This chapter subsumes David Marr’s levels of analysis account of explanation in cognitive science under the framework of mechanistic explanation: Answering the questions that define each one of Marr’s three levels is tantamount to describing the component parts and operations of mechanisms, as well as their organization, behavior, and environmental context. By explicating these questions and showing how they are answered in several different cognitive science research programs, this chapter reso…Read more
  • Computational Cognitive Neuroscience
    In Mark Sprevak & Matteo Colombo (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of the Computational Mind, Routledge. forthcoming.
    This chapter provides an overview of the basic research strategies and analytic techniques deployed in computational cognitive neuroscience. On the one hand, “top-down” strategies are used to infer, from formal characterizations of behavior and cognition, the computational properties of underlying neural mechanisms. On the other hand, “bottom-up” research strategies are used to identify neural mechanisms and to reconstruct their computational capacities. Both of these strategies rely on experime…Read more