Behavioral and Brain Sciences

The dynamical hypothesis in cognitive science

Tim van Gelder a1
a1 Department of Philosophy, University of Melbourne, Parkville VIC 3052, Australia [email protected]


According to the dominant computational approach in cognitive science, cognitive agents are digital computers; according to the alternative approach, they are dynamical systems. This target article attempts to articulate and support the dynamical hypothesis. The dynamical hypothesis has two major components: the nature hypothesis (cognitive agents are dynamical systems) and the knowledge hypothesis (cognitive agents can be understood dynamically). A wide range of objections to this hypothesis can be rebutted. The conclusion is that cognitive systems may well be dynamical systems, and only sustained empirical research in cognitive science will determine the extent to which that is true.

Key Words: cognition; computability; computational systems; computers; dynamical systems; modeling; systems; time.