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Idealizations, competence and explanation: a response to Patterson

Franks, Bradley (1999) Idealizations, competence and explanation: a response to Patterson. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 50 (4). pp. 735-746. ISSN 0007-0882

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Identification Number: 10.1093/bjps/50.4.735


The connection between idealizations, competence and multi-level explanations in cognitive psychology is discussed, in response to Patterson's ([1998]) reply to Franks ([1995]). I argue that idealizations are inherent in competence explanations and as a result, such explanations cannot be formulated in the multi-level terms widely used in the cognitive sciences. Patterson's argument was that neither competence nor performance involve idealizations, and since they are separate 'systems', it is inappropriate to apply a single multi-level explanation to them. I suggest that there is evidence that, although competence and performance are very often explicated in terms of levels of description, both none the less involve idealizations. However, I also suggest that Patterson's argument rests on confounding the demarcation of cognitive systems. Hence, even if competence and performance are different levels of a single system, questions concerning idealizations still arise when they are combined in an explanation.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 1999 British Society for the Philosophy of Science
Divisions: Psychological and Behavioural Science
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Date Deposited: 11 Jun 2007
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 00:41

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