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How to overcome human cognitive limitations in mathematical practice: Towards a conceptual framework of distributed cognition

Lezing door Dr Helen de Cruz (KU Leuven)

Experimental studies indicate that human cognitive capacities are limited by heuristics, biases and memory constraints. Yet scientific and mathematical practice seems to be relatively unhindered by these limitations. Some philosophers of mind (e.g., Clark), philosophers of science (e.g., Giere) and social epistemologists (e.g., Hutchins) have argued that scientists are able to overcome their natural cognitive limitations by three types of external resources: other minds, artefacts such as measuring devices, and (artificial and natural) language. It remains unclear precisely how/ /these tools extend our cognitive capacities, how they interact with each other, and whether they are all equally crucial or important for scientific and mathematical practice. This paper outlines a conceptual framework in which these three types of distributed cognition are incorporated. I focus on mathematics, because the evolved cognitive faculties that lie at its origin are among the most thoroughly researched domains in cognitive psychology. I show that other minds, artefacts, and language are all essential to mathematical practice, but that they enhance human cognition in different ways. This theoretical framework is illustrated with examples from the history of mathematics.

Helen De Cruz is a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for Logic and Analytic Philosophy at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium. Her research focuses on the cognitive foundations of scientific and mathematical knowledge, including the role of evolved cognitive biases and extended mind. She draws on theories and results from cognitive science to approach philosophical questions. Her publications appear in both philosophical and cognitive science journals.
Laatst gewijzigd:30 oktober 2012 20:39