The mark of the cognitive

  • Niccolo Aimone Pisano

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


Several philosophical debates in thephilosophy of mind and of the cognitive sciences seem to require the elaborationof a mark of the cognitive (MOC). Some proposals for individually necessaryand/or jointly sufficient conditions for cognition are already available, buteach of them is not entirely satisfactory for different reasons.

I start by drawing on some of the extantproposals, and I advance a possible candidate necessary condition forcognition. I motivate the claim that cognition requires the existence of afirst-person perspective (1PP) associated with it. However, while reasonable, Iargue that we should not ultimately accept this claim. Moreover, some of thereasons that I provide for not accepting it also apply to the broadermethodological family of approaches to cognition that has been labelled by Lyon(2006) the “anthropogenic” family. As a result, it is not just the 1PPcondition that needs to be dismissed, it is the entire anthropogenic approachto cognition that should not be pursued in attempting to elaborate a MOC.

Luckily, the other broad methodologicalfamily, the one of the “biogenic” approaches to cognition, is not vulnerable tothe same issues that arise in the case of anthropogenic approaches. We shouldtherefore adopt a biogenic approach to the issue of finding a mark of thecognitive. Nevertheless, elaborating a MOC within a biogenic framework may notprove as beneficial as one may hope. In fact, what appears to be the mostpromising and positively received product of a biogenic approach, namely theFree-Energy Principle and the accounts of cognition based on it, needs to beunderstood in instrumentalist terms. Consequently, while we may still be ableto achieve an understanding of what cognition is, some of the debates meant tobe settled by the elaboration of a MOC may remain unsettled.

Date of Award10 Jun 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorMichael Wheeler (Supervisor) & Simon James Prosser (Supervisor)

Access Status

  • Full text embargoed until
  • Restricted until 30 November 2024

Cite this