For the sixth meeting of BIG, the last meeting of the autumn semester, Ric Sims (University of Exeter) presented a paper entitled “Four embeddings and a failure: lessons in demarcating extended cognitive systems”. In this paper, the author explored the limitations of mechanistic explanations for (extended) cognitive systems, which ultimately provided part of the support for a position of ‘explanatory pluralism’.
The paper fits into his larger project of trying to understand how scientific cognition might be thought of as extended, which the author prefers to conceptualise as distributed cognition. In particular, scientific models might be understood as playing an important representational role within this framework.
For much of this year Ric has been working on the problem of cognitive system demarcation and was led to consider functionalist styles of explanation as applied to such systems. The paper trail led to the mechanisms literature, and this autumn he has been trying to understand the complex relationship between mechanisms and functional models of explanation. The current paper is the result of these investigations.