The Cognition Programme is based on the assumption that cognition and other mental phenomena are central to the functioning of all living beings. To put it another way, the fundamental principles governing cognition run from single cells to human societies. Further, we believe cognition should be studied comprehensively as opposed to bits and pieces (which is the usual scientific approach), with the larger view of life on the one hand and classical problems in the social sciences and the humanities on the other. Such a birds’-eye view of cognition inherently calls for an interdisciplinary approach, with crucial inputs from biology, philosophy, mathematics and cognitive science. This is of course an ambitious vision but it can be broken down into constituent parts that form the basis of the research agenda of the cognition programme here at NIAS. These parts are:
(a) To understand cognition at its most fundamental level, we have to explore a small set of key philosophical, psychological, mathematical and biological concepts. Some of these concepts are: Generativity, Self-organisation, Goal directedness (or Telos, to use a philosophical term), Darwinian evolution, Psyche (or Prāņa ), Embodiment and Enaction. Section 3a later in this document outlines a research agenda around the investigation of the concepts mentioned above.
(b) The fundamental concepts can be fleshed out in terms of detailed mathematical models. One prominent activity of the cognition programme will be to build and test these models.
(c) Empirical research coming from different species will provide key data on integrating models across spatio-temporal scales and species boundaries.
(d) The models of cognition developed above can be fruitfully used to understand classical problems in the social sciences and humanities, such as violence. Section 3d of this document outlines how the cognition programme will deliver insights based on its fundamental research on cognition.
(e) Finally, in addition to our technical publications, we hope to put together, over the next five years, several joint papers and reviews outlining the fundamental nature of cognition, its empirical manifestations and applications in the different disciplines, as jointly visualised by the authors of this unique, multidisciplinary programme.
The main projects that will constitute the research of the cognition programme over the next five years are: Fundamental Concepts in Cognition, Mathematical Modelling, Cross-species Cognition and Cognitive Approaches to the Social Sciences.