Can humans compute? This is the question to which H. Christopher Longuet-Higgins, one of the founding figures of cognitive science, has devoted his research over the past twenty years. His and his field's intellectual odyssey from the fringe to the center of the scientific world's attention is recounted with wit and grace in this wide-ranging collection of previously published and original essays. The volume begins in the late 1960s, when the author had moved from theoretical chemistry to what was then known as theoretical biology. It traces his search for new concepts with which to establish a science of the mind, and it includes Longuet-Higgins's famous comment on the 1971 Lighthill Report in which he introduced the term "cognitive science" and sketched the possible components of the field. The essays are divided into five parts. The first, Generalities, explores the basic philosophical questions at the root of the new science. The essays on Music show the importance of the musical sense as a testing ground for understanding cognitive processes in general. The author's forays into Language describe some of the major early achievements in the now very active field of computational linguistics. The studies of Vision are all directed to the problem - crucial for the development of machine-vision systems - of inferring the structure of a scene from two views. The author suggests that the chapters on Memory "be treated indulgently as the first attempt of a physical scientist to climb out of the mindless world of atoms and molecules into the real world of subjective experience."
Mental Processes inaugurates the series Explorations in Cognitive Science, edited by Margaret Boden and co-sponsored by The MIT Press and The British Psychological Society. A Bradford Book.