Demarcating cognition: the cognitive life sciences

Fred Keijzer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
107 Downloads (Pure)


This paper criticizes the role of intuition-based ascriptions of cognition that are closely related to the ascription of mind. This practice hinders the explication of a clear and stable target domain for the cognitive sciences. Tomove forward, the proposal is to cut the notion of cognition free from such ascriptions and the intuition-based judgments that drive them. Instead, cognition is reinterpreted and developed as a scientific concept that is tied to a material domain of research. In this reading, cognition becomes a changeable theoretical concept that can and must be adapted to the findings within this target domain. Taking humans as the best-established existing example of the relevant material target domain, this central case is extended to include all living systems. To clarifywhat it is about living systems thatwarrants their role as cognitive target domain, the new concept of cobolism is introduced as a complement to metabolism. Cobolism refers to the systematic ways in which each living system encompasses structures, processes and external events that maintain the fundamental metabolic processes that constitute the core of each living system. Cobolism is perfectly general, applies to bacterial and human cases alike, and provides a general format to describe wildly different cognitive organizations. It provides a clear target for the cognitive sciences to work on, turning them into what we can call the cognitive life sciences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-157
Number of pages21
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10-Feb-2021


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