William Bechtel

William Bechtel is Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, San Diego, and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is the author of Mental Mechanisms: Philosophical Perspectives on Cognitive Neuroscience and other books.

  • Discovering Complexity

    Discovering Complexity

    Decomposition and Localization as Strategies in Scientific Research

    William Bechtel and Robert C. Richardson

    An analysis of two heuristic strategies for the development of mechanistic models, illustrated with historical examples from the life sciences.

    In Discovering Complexity, William Bechtel and Robert Richardson examine two heuristics that guided the development of mechanistic models in the life sciences: decomposition and localization. Drawing on historical cases from disciplines including cell biology, cognitive neuroscience, and genetics, they identify a number of "choice points" that life scientists confront in developing mechanistic explanations and show how different choices result in divergent explanatory models. Describing decomposition as the attempt to differentiate functional and structural components of a system and localization as the assignment of responsibility for specific functions to specific structures, Bechtel and Richardson examine the usefulness of these heuristics as well as their fallibility—the sometimes false assumption underlying them that nature is significantly decomposable and hierarchically organized.

    When Discovering Complexity was originally published in 1993, few philosophers of science perceived the centrality of seeking mechanisms to explain phenomena in biology, relying instead on the model of nomological explanation advanced by the logical positivists (a model Bechtel and Richardson found to be utterly inapplicable to the examples from the life sciences in their study). Since then, mechanism and mechanistic explanation have become widely discussed. In a substantive new introduction to this MIT Press edition of their book, Bechtel and Richardson examine both philosophical and scientific developments in research on mechanistic models since 1993.

    • Paperback $35.00


  • The Architecture of Cognition

    The Architecture of Cognition

    Rethinking Fodor and Pylyshyn's Systematicity Challenge

    Paco Calvo and John Symons

    Philosophers and cognitive scientists reassess systematicity in the post-connectionist era, offering perspectives from ecological psychology, embodied and distributed cognition, enactivism, and other methodologies.

    In 1988, Jerry Fodor and Zenon Pylyshyn challenged connectionist theorists to explain the systematicity of cognition. In a highly influential critical analysis of connectionism, they argued that connectionist explanations, at best, can only inform us about details of the neural substrate; explanations at the cognitive level must be classical insofar as adult human cognition is essentially systematic. More than twenty-five years later, however, conflicting explanations of cognition do not divide along classicist-connectionist lines, but oppose cognitivism (both classicist and connectionist) with a range of other methodologies, including distributed and embodied cognition, ecological psychology, enactivism, adaptive behavior, and biologically based neural network theory. This volume reassesses Fodor and Pylyshyn's “systematicity challenge” for a post-connectionist era.

    The contributors consider such questions as how post-connectionist approaches meet Fodor and Pylyshyn's conceptual challenges; whether there is empirical evidence for or against the systematicity of thought; and how the systematicity of human thought relates to behavior. The chapters offer a representative sample and an overview of the most important recent developments in the systematicity debate.

    Contributors Ken Aizawa, William Bechtel, Gideon Borensztajn, Paco Calvo, Anthony Chemero, Jonathan D. Cohen, Alicia Coram, Jeffrey L. Elman, Stefan L. Frank, Antoni Gomila, Seth A. Herd, Trent Kriete, Christian J. Lebiere, Lorena Lobo, Edouard Machery, Gary Marcus, Emma Martín, Fernando Martínez-Manrique, Brian P. McLaughlin, Randall C. O'Reilly, Alex A. Petrov, Steven Phillips, William Ramsey, Michael Silberstein, John Symons, David Travieso, William H. Wilson, Willem Zuidema

    • Hardcover $53.00 £7.99
  • Foundational Issues in Human Brain Mapping

    Foundational Issues in Human Brain Mapping

    Stephen José Hanson and Martin Bunzl

    Neuroimagers and philosophers of mind explore critical issues and controversies that have arisen from the use of brain mapping in cognitive neuroscience and cognitive science.

    The field of neuroimaging has reached a watershed. Brain imaging research has been the source of many advances in cognitive neuroscience and cognitive science over the last decade, but recent critiques and emerging trends are raising foundational issues of methodology, measurement, and theory. Indeed, concerns over interpretation of brain maps have created serious controversies in social neuroscience, and, more important, point to a larger set of issues that lie at the heart of the entire brain mapping enterprise. In this volume, leading scholars—neuroimagers and philosophers of mind—reexamine these central issues and explore current controversies that have arisen in cognitive science, cognitive neuroscience, computer science, and signal processing. The contributors address both statistical and dynamical analysis and modeling of neuroimaging data and interpretation, discussing localization, modularity, and neuroimagers' tacit assumptions about how these two phenomena are related; controversies over correlation of fMRI data and social attributions (recently characterized for good or ill as "voodoo correlations"); and the standard inferential design approach in neuroimaging. Finally, the contributors take a more philosophical perspective, considering the nature of measurement in brain imaging, and offer a framework for novel neuroimaging data structures (effective and functional connectivity—"graphs").

    Contributors William Bechtel, Bharat Biswal, Matthew Brett, Martin Bunzl, Max Coltheart, Karl J. Friston, Joy J. Geng, Clark Glymour, Kalanit Grill-Spector, Stephen José Hanson, Trevor Harley, Gilbert Harman, James V. Haxby, Rik N. Henson, Nancy Kanwisher, Colin Klein, Richard Loosemore, Sébastien Meriaux, Chris Mole, Jeanette A. Mumford, Russell A. Poldrack, Jean-Baptiste Poline, Richard C. Richardson, Alexis Roche, Adina L. Roskies, Pia Rotshtein, Rebecca Saxe, Philipp Sterzer, Bertrand Thirion, Edward Vul

    • Hardcover $76.00
    • Paperback $40.00