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WIREs Cogn Sci
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Levels of analysis: philosophical issues

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Abstract A focal concern in the philosophy of cognitive science is whether the world is fundamentally organized into hierarchies of levels and whether mental phenomena exemplify such higher‐level regularities and hence are unexplainable by lower‐level theory. Levels of analysis represent different stances from which predictive and explanatory theories are constructed, and each level of analysis contains a set of kind terms representing things in nature, predicates representing properties or relations, and law‐like generalizations or principles. The concept of levels of analysis, which plays a central role in debates over the cognitive architecture of the mind in cognitive science, is concerned mainly with the choice of which level of analysis can be expected to maximize the predictability and explanatory power of cognitive modeling. The core philosophical issues concerning the levels of analysis are the problem of theoretical reduction between the levels, the concept of supervenience, the problem of emergent properties, and the conceptual coherence of the notion of downward causation. WIREs Cogn Sci 2012, 3:315–325. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1179 This article is categorized under: Philosophy > Foundations of Cognitive Science

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