ICCS2004 Application Submission/Review

Abstract for
"The Emergence of Collective Cognition in Social Systems"


The idea that social systems can retain forms of cognition through sharing in a way that transcends the mental states of the individual members has been around for quite some time However, despite the apparent enthusiasm for the subject, a number of important foundational issues still remain to be addressed. One of these is concerned with the nature of the relation connecting the two levels - individual and collective - at which cognition occurs. What is puzzling about this relation is the fact that one level - the collective - is determined by, depends on, the other - the individual - and yet takes on an autonomous existence. It is the objective of this paper to make this seemingly untenable combination of dependence and autonomy more intelligible. To this end, a general conceptual framework is proposed in which an account of collective cognition will be predicated on the notion of emergence. The main implications of this account will be explored, particularly in terms of multiple realisability, irreducibility and downward causation.