Sketches of Thought
298 pp., 6 x 9 in,
- Published: September 29, 1995
- Publisher: The MIT Press
- Published: October 3, 1995
- Publisher: The MIT Press
Vinod Goel argues that the cognitive computational conception of the world requires our thought processes to be precise, rigid, discrete, and unambiguous; yet there are dense, ambiguous, and amorphous symbol systems, like sketching, painting, and poetry, found in the arts and much of everyday discourse that have an important, nontrivial place in cognition.
Much of the cognitive lies beyond articulate, discursive thought, beyond the reach of current computational notions. In Sketches of Thought, Vinod Goel argues that the cognitive computational conception of the world requires our thought processes to be precise, rigid, discrete, and unambiguous; yet there are dense, ambiguous, and amorphous symbol systems, like sketching, painting, and poetry, found in the arts and much of everyday discourse that have an important, nontrivial place in cognition.
Goel maintains that while on occasion our thoughts do conform to the current computational theory of mind, they often are—indeed must be—vague, fluid, ambiguous, and amorphous. He argues that if cognitive science takes the classical computational story seriously, it must deny or ignore these processes, or at least relegate them to the realm of the nonmental.
As a cognitive scientist with a design background, Goel is in a unique position to challenge cognitive science on its own territory. He introduces design problem solving as a domain of cognition that illustrates these inarticulate, nondiscursive thought processes at work through the symbol system of sketching. He argues not that such thoughts must remain noncomputational but that our current notions of computation and representation are not rich enough to capture them.
Along the way, Goel makes a number of significant and controversial interim points. He shows that there is a principled distinction between design and nondesign problems, that there are standard stages in the solution of design problems, that these stages correlate with the use of different types of external symbol systems; that these symbol systems are usefully individuated in Nelson Goodman's syntactic and semantic terms, and that different cognitive processes are facilitated by different types of symbol systems.
Bradford Books imprint
While various critiques of the cognitive science model of the mind have been put forth, Vinod Goel is the first scholar to challenge cognitivism on its own turf. Cognitivists will ignore this work at their peril; having attended to it, cognitivists must then attempt to answer it as well.
Howard Gardner, Professor of Education, Harvard University, author of The Mind's New Science
The book's premise that current versions of the computational theory of mind wholly fail to address at least one important kind of cognitive activity is a significant contribution to cognitive science. There has recently been a great deal of interest amoung the cognitive science, AI, and design research communities in the role of sketches, diagrams, and visual representations in problem-solving. Sketches of Thought provides key insights into the functions that sketching serves in early design.
Mark D. Gross, Director, Laboratory for Design Computing, College of Architecture and Planning, University of Colorado
A sustained and original critique of some of the deepest assumptions in current computational cognitive science. Especially salutary is Goel's retention of representation. Rather than simply embrace or dismiss it, he points the way towards an alternative conception that does justice to the informal, the inchoate, the open-ended, the creative. Goel has made an important contribution to releasing us from the grip of an overly formalist conceptualism.
Brain Cantwell Smith, Xerox PARC and Department of Philosophy, Standford University
Vinod Goel sets forth an important argument against the computational theory of mind: namely, that the symbol systems it requires are too restrictive to account for open-minded cognition in ill-structured problem domains such as planning, design, and the arts. His incisive analysis explores uncharted territory and poses serious challenges for computational theories of cognition.
Stephen E. Palmer, Director, Institue of Cognitive Studies, University of California
People use a variety of types of external representations. Goel argues convincingly that one of those uses—sketching—cannot be modeled by any available computational theory of mind. His argument that sketching is essnetial to the process of design is original and careful; the account of it gives a fresh critical perspective on computation and cognition. The book should be of interest to anyone who uses sketches or wants to know why and how they are produced.
Mark Rollins, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology Program, Washington University