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Cognitive Systems

 a cybernetic view on the new science of the mind


This course was formerly taught by Francis Heylighen in the Master's program for philosophy students. The course is no longer on the program but it can still be studied fully from the lecture notes listed below.


The students make themselves familiar with the basic concepts of cognitive science from a systems-theoretic perspective. They learn to apply these concepts to get a better insight into knowledge, intelligence, consciousness, and related mental phenomena.



The course gives an integrated treatment of the main concepts and models from cognitive science, which includes among other things psychology, artificial intelligence, and philosophy of science. First, a critical, historical review is given of the main assumptions of existing approaches, which include epistemology, cognitive psychology, problem solving, symbolic AI, neural networks, situated and embodied cognition, and constructivism.

Then, the problem of knowledge and intelligence is approached systematically from a cybernetic perspective: cognition is what allows an autonomous agent to efficiently pursue its goals within a complex and variable environment, by anticipating events and solving the potential problems that occur. This requires the development of a dynamic, recurrent network of associations or rules that link together concepts. This network is typically distributed across several parts of the brain, body, sensory organs, external objects, and possibly even other agents. Information is processed through the propagation of activation across this network. From this perspective, a number of specific phenomena and problems are examined, including instinctive responses, learning, perception, thought, consciousness, IQ, collective intelligence, extended mind, and subjective experience.

Lecture Notes

The students have access to complete lecture notes  (approx. 120 pages) in English, in the form of a downloadable PDF file. These include illustrations, table of contents, alphabetical index and a bibliography for further study.