Philosophy of Cognitive Science

Course Description

This course is an introduction to the philosophy of cognitive science. The focus of the course is the computational foundations of cognitive science. First we cover the rudiments of the theory of computation, including finite state machines, non-determinacy, context free grammars, Turing machines, and undecidable languages. Then we turn to explore how these ideas have been used to advance computational theories of cognition. In addition to considering general questions — such as the kinds of processes and states that have been advanced for computational theories of cognition, what counts as an explanation within the cognitive sciences, and the relationship between machine intelligence and human intelligence — we will also consider a specific topic, judgment and decision-making. Finally, we will consider some recent proposals that which challenge the centrality of computational theories of cognition.

Course Mechanics

Location: Ludwigstraße 31, 021
Time: Tuesday 14:00 - 16:00 c.t.
Instructor's Office: Ludwigstraße 31, Room 125.
Office Hours: Tuesday 16:00 - 17:00 and By Appointment
Syllabus: [pdf]

Required Texts

Michael Sipser, Introduction to the Theory of Computation, 2nd Edition, Wiley, 2005.

Robert Cummins and Denise Cummins (Eds.), Minds, Brains, and Computers: The Foundations of Cognitive ScienceL, Blackwell, 2000.

Additional course readings are available here

Course Requirements

Two Exercise Sets: 30%
Final Paper Outline: 30%
Final Paper (4000-5000 words): 40%

You are allowed to discuss the problem sets with your classmates in attempting to solve the exercises, but each student must write up independent answers. If you collaborate with another student in solving a particular exercise, you must identify who that student is and note which problems you collaborated on. Failure to note collaboration or copying answers verbatim constitutes academic dishonesty.


08.4Introduction: Computationalism and its alternatives; Finite State MachinesSipser Ch.1
Haugeland 1981
15.4Non-determinism and Regular Expressions
(Pumping Lemma)
Sipser Ch.1
29.4Context Free Languages and Push Down AutomataSipser Ch.2
Exercise 1 DUE
06.5Turing Machines Sipser Ch.3
13.5Church-Turing Thesis and Decidable and Undecidable Languages
Sipser Ch.3
Sipser Ch.4;
Lamport 1998
Exercise 2 DUE
20.5Minds and Machines Putnam 1960;
Turing 1950;
Hayes and Ford 1995
27.5Levels of AnalysisMarr 1981;
Pylyshyn 1980;
Newell 1981;
Lebiere 2006;
03.6Connectionism IMcClelland et al. 1986; Churchland 1990
10.6Connectionism IIFodor and Pylyshyn 1988; Johnson 2004
17.6Rational AnalysisAnderson J. 1991; Chater and Oaksford 1999Paper Outline DUE
24.6Bounded Rationality I: Biases and HeuristicsSimon 1956; Tversky and Kahneman 1974; Gigerenzer 1996
01.7Bounded Rationality II: Fast and Frugal Heuristics [slides]Gigerenzer 2009; Gigerenzer and Goldstein 1996; Excerpts from Todd, et al. 2012
08.7Embodied, Situated, and Extended CognitionBrooks 1990; Vera and Simon 1993; Clark and Chalmers 1998; M. Anderson 2003Paper DUE
Course readings are available here

Course Readings