CFP: Synthese Special Issue “Explanations in Cognitive Science: Unification vs Pluralism”

One of the goals of the founders of cognitive science was to create a unified research discipline with a particularly pluralistic methodology but a single object of research. For example, a lot of effort has been put into making unified theories of cognition prominent in cognitive science, in particular as theories of cognitive architecture. However, there are as of yet no grand unified theories of cognition; existing cognitive architectures resemble programming languages more than psychological models. Even more critical is the fact that we lack a systematic analysis of the foundations and conditions for unification in cognitive science, including, in particular, explanatory practices and the role of explanation in different fields of cognitive science (for example, in computational neuroscience or cognitive psychology). These issues have been traditionally discussed in the context of multiple realizability, and more recently in the context of a unified theory of perception and action in terms of predictive processing. Another particularly important perspective is the one offered by interfield theories, which has inspired the neomechanistic approach to explanation; the mechanist approach is gaining prominence also in the philosophy of cognitive science

Thus, it seems that issues of critical importance for the philosophy of cognitive science and cognitive neuroscience are whether the unification of cognitive science is not only desirable but even possible, and if so, what fundamental limits and problems are to be expected and what conditions a satisfactory unification should fulfill. Some authors suggest that integration is but a pipe dream, contrary to what has been recently claimed about smooth integration of cognitive science and cognitive neuroscience, because experimental protocols between cognitive sciences and neuroscience vary a lot. Should unification rely on reduction? Is pluralism a satisfactory descriptive account of explanation in cognitive science? What are the limitations and shortcomings of explanatory pluralism? What are the advantages of explanatory unification as compared to the benefits of explanatory pluralism? We thus encourage submissions that would fruitfully connect the traditional philosophical issues of explanation, in particular mechanistic explanation, with issues in cognitive science.

For further information, please contact the guest editors:

Marcin Miłkowski, Ph.D., Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences (

Mateusz Hohol, Ph.D Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences (

How to submit:

papers must be submitted through the Synthese Editorial Manager, by selecting the Special Issue “Explanations in Cognitive Science: Unification vs Pluralism.” All submissions will be double-anonymous peer-reviewed according to the usual Synthese standards.

The deadline for submissions is November 6st 2018.

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