The Socratic and Platonic Basis of Cognitivism

  • Hubert L. Dreyfus
Part of the Human-Computer Interaction Series book series (HCIS)


Artificial Intelligence, and the cognitivist view of mind on which it is based, represent the last stage of the rationalist tradition in philosophy. This tradition begins when Socrates assumes that intelligence is based on principles and when Plato adds the requirement that these principles must be strict rules, not based on taken-for-granted background understanding. This philosophical position, refined by Hobbes, Descartes and Leibniz, is finally converted into a research program by Herbert Simon and Allen Newell. That research program is now in trouble, so we must return to its source and question Socrates’ assumption that intelligence consists in solving problems by following rules, and that one acquires the necessary rules by abstracting them from specific cases. A phenomenological description of skill acquisition suggests that the acquisition of expertise moves in just the opposite direction: from abstract rules to particular cases. This description of expertise accounts for the difficulties that have confronted AI for the last decade.


Artificial Intelligence checker program chess cognitivism connectionism expertise expert systems heuristic knowledge phenomenology Physical Symbol System Plato skill acquisition Socrates 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hubert L. Dreyfus
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CaliforniaUSA

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