Foundations Of Cognitive Science

Intertheoretic Reduction

In the philosophy of science, if two apparently different theories are in fact identical, then one theory can be translated into the other.  This is called intertheoretic reduction (Churchland, 1985, 1988; Hooker, 1979, 1981).  The widely accepted view that classical and connectionist cognitive science are fundamentally different (Schneider, 1987) amounts to the claim that intertheoretic reduction between a symbolic model and a connectionist network is impossible.  The idea that fundamentally different theories cannot be translated into one another (or one reduced to the other) stems from Kuhn’s (1970) notion of different paradigms, where two truly different scientific approaches use languages that are incommensurate.


  1. Churchland, P. M. (1985). Reduction, qualia, and the direct introspection of brain states. The Journal of Philosophy, LXXXII, 8-28.
  2. Churchland, P. M. (1988). Matter and consciousness, Revised edition. Cambridge, MA: MIT press.
  3. Hooker, C. A. (1979). Critical notice: R.M. Yoshida's Reduction In The Physical Sciences. Dialogue, 18, 81-99.
  4. Hooker, C. A. (1981). Towards a general theory of reduction. Dialogue, 20, 38-59, 201-236, 496-529.
  5. Kuhn, T. S. (1970). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Second Edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  6. Schneider, W. (1987). Connectionism:  Is it a paradigm shift for psychology?  Behavior research methods, instruments, & computers, 19, 73-83.

(Added April 2011)