JB: Distinguish cognitive science from philosophy?
LAKOFF: That is a deep and important question, and central to the enterprise of Philosophy In The Flesh. The reason that the question doesn't have a simple answer is that there are two forms of cognitive science, one fashioned on the assumptions of Anglo-American philosophy and one (so far as we can tell) independent of specific philosophical assumptions that determine the results of the inquiry.
Early cognitive science, what we call "first-generation" cognitive science (or "disembodied cognitive science"), was designed to fit a formalist version of Anglo-American philosophy. That is, it had philosophical assumptions that the determined important parts of the content of the scientific "results." Back in the late 1950's, Hilary Putnam (a noted and very gifted philosopher) formulated a philosophical position called "functionalism." (Incidentally, he has since renounced that position.) It was an apriori philosophical position, not based on any evidence whatever. The proposal was this:
The mind can be studied in terms of its cognitive functions - that is, in terms of the operations it performs - independently of the brain and body.
The operations performed by the mind can be adequately modeled by the manipulation of meaningless formal symbols, as in a computer program.
This philosophical program fit paradigms that existed at the time in a number of disciplines.
In formal philosophy:
The idea that reason could be adequately characterized using symbolic logic, which utilizes the manipulation of meaningless formal symbols.
In generative linguistics:
The idea that the grammar of a language can be adequately characterized in terms of rules that manipulate meaningless formal symbols.
In artificial intelligence:
The idea that intelligence in general consists in computer programs that manipulate meaningless formal symbols.
In information processing psychology:
The idea that the mind is an information-processing device, where information-processing is taken as the manipulation of meaningless formal symbols, as in a computer program.
All of these fields had developed out of formal philosophy. These four fields converged in the 1970's to form first-generation cognitive science. It had a view of mind as the disembodied manipulation of meaningless formal symbols.
JB: How does this fit into empirical science?
LAKOFF: This view was not empirically based, having arisen from an apriori philosophy. Nonetheless it got the field started. What was good about it was that it was precise. What was disastrous about it was that it had a hidden philosophical worldview that mascaraded as a scientific result. And if you accepted that philosophical position, all results inconsistent with that philosophy could only be seen as nonsense. To researchers trained in that tradition, cognitive science was the study of mind within that apriori philosophical position. The first generation of cognitive scientists was trained to think that way, and many textbooks still portray cognitive science in that way. Thus, first generation cognitive science is not distinct from philosophy; it comes with an apriori philosophical worldview that places substantive constraints on what a "mind" can be. Here are some of those constraints:
Concepts must be literal. If reasoning is to be characterized in terms of traditional formal logic, there can be no such thing as a metaphorical concept and no such thing as metaphorical thought.
Concepts and reasoning with concepts must be distinct from mental imagery, since imagery uses the mechanisms of vision and cannot be characterized as being the manipulation of meaningless formal symbols.