Journal Article

Discussion. Idealizations, competence and explanation: a response to Patterson

B Franks

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 50, issue 4, pages 735-746
Published in print December 1999 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online December 1999 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/50.4.735
Discussion. Idealizations, competence and explanation: a response to Patterson

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The connection between idealizations, competence and multi-level explanations in cognitive psychology is discussed, in response to Patterson's ([1998]) reply to Franks ([1995]). I argue that idealizations are inherent in competence explanations and as a result, such explanations cannot be formulated in the multi-level terms widely used in the cognitive sciences. Patterson's argument was that neither competence nor performance involve idealizations, and since they are separate 'systems', it is inappropriate to apply a single multi-level explanation to them. I suggest that there is evidence that, although competence and performance are very often explicated in terms of levels of description, both none the less involve idealizations. However, I also suggest that Patterson's argument rests on confounding the demarcation of cognitive systems. Hence, even if competence and performance are different levels of a single system, questions concerning idealizations still arise when they are combined in an explanation.

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Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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