Hays Tradition in Cognition

In scientific prognostication we have a condition analogous to a fact of archery–the farther back you are able to draw your longbow, the farther ahead you can shoot.
– R. Buckminster Fuller, Critical Path, 229

...the field of cognitive science...is full of people profoundly misinterpreting each other's phrases and images, unconsciously sliding and slipping between different meanings of words, making sloppy analogies and fundamental mistakes in reasoning, drawing meaningless or incomprehensible diagrams, and so on. Yet almost everyone puts on a no-nonsense face of scientific rigor, often displaying impressive tables and graphs and so on, trying to prove how realistic and indisputable their results. This is fine, even necessary...but the problem is that this facade is never lowered, so that one never is allowed to see the ill-founded swamps of intuition on which all this "rigor" is based.
– Douglas Hofstadter, Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies, 375-375

David G. Hays headed the RAND Corporations work on machine translation in the 1950s an 1960s. In 1969 he became the founding chairman of the Department of Linguistics at the State University of New York at Buffalo. I entered the English Department as a Ph. D. student in the fall of 1973 and was introduced to Hays in the spring of 1974 by Ralph Henry Reese, a fellow graduate student in English. I joined Hays’ research group that year. This is a partial list of the documents that came out of the research Hays initiated at Buffalo.

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While I have divided the work in phases to mark major shifts in thinking, there is overlap between these phases and that overlap shows up in the documents attributed to each phase.

WLB = William L. Benzon
DGH = David G. Hays

Phase 1: Mechanisms of Language

This work is more or less “standard issue” for a certain kind of computational work being done in cognition and semantics during the mid-1970s. Similar work was being done at Yale, UCal San Diego, Carnegie Mellon, BBN, MIT, and SRI International. Features of interest include Hays’ account of metalingual definition, Phillips’ concept of manifestation, the use of modality and episodic structure as a mechanism for gathering heterogeneous information into a compact “bundle”, and use introduction of ontological relations (via the Great Chain of Being) in an unpublished manuscript.

Hays’ unpublished Mechanisms of Language is the major systematic treatment of this phase. It treats cognition as the foundation of language and includes treatments of lexical semantics, morphology, syntax, and phonology as well.

DGH (1973). The Meaning of a Term is a Function of the Theory in Which It Occurs. SIGLASH Newsletter 6, 8-11.

DGH, Mechanisms of Language. Unpublished ms. 1974.

Furugori, Teiji, A Memory Model and Simulation of Memory Processes for Driving a Car. Ph. D. Diss. State University of New York at Buffalo, 1974.

Phillips, Brian, Topic Analysis. Ph. D. Diss. State University of New York at Buffalo, 1975.

Phillips, Brian, "Judging the Coherency of Discourse," American Journal of Computational Linguistics, Microfiche 35, frames 36-49, 1975.

White, Mary, Cognitive Networks and World View: The Metaphysical Terminology of a Millenarian Community. Ph. D. Diss. State University of New York at Buffalo, 1975.

DGH (1976). On "Alienation": An Essay in the Psycholinguistics of Science. In (R.R. Geyer & D. R. Schietzer, Eds.): Theories of Alienation. Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff, pp. 169-187.

DGH (1976) Networks, Cognitive. In (Allen Kent, Harold Lancour, Jay E. Daily, eds.): Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, Vol 19. Marcel Dekker, Inc., NY 1976, 281-300.

WLB, Of Unicorns and Virgins: On the Cognition of Ontological Transition. Unpublished ms.,1975.

WLB, Cognitive Networks and Literary Semantics. MLN 91: 952-982, 1976.

WLB, Ontology of Common Sense. Handbook of Metaphysics and Ontology. Philosophia Verlag, 1991.

Phase 2: Cognitive Structures

That major achievement in this phase was to ground cognition in sensorimotor perception and action; we didn’t use the term “embodiment” but that was what we were doing. Hays had read William Powers, Behavior: The Control of Perception, and decided he wanted to adopt that as the foundation for the cognitive model developed in the previous phase. Powers’ model consisted of a stack of servomechanisms (closed loop feedback circuits) that afforded elegant accounts of memory, imagination, and learning.

We worked on that in the research group and Hays worked a scheme in Cognitive Structures, completed in 1975 (and circulated informally) and published in 1981. In that book he worked out a scheme of parameters of perception which formed the link between the sensorimotor system and the cognitive mechanisms of the previous phase. These parameters were: order, channel, scope, salience, focality, and lifespan.

My 1978 dissertation assumed that framework, added some remarks on a possible neural foundation, and sketched out a broad scheme of the long-term historical evolution of conceptual structures using narrative form as an example.

DGH, Cognitive Structures, HRAF Press, 1981.

WLB, Cognitive Science and Literary Theory, Ph. D. Dissertation, Dept. of English, SUNY Buffalo, 1978.

DGH and D. Bloom (1978). Designation in English. In Anaphora in Discourse, edited by John V. Hinds. Edmonton, Alta. ; Champaign, Ill. : Linguistic Research.

WLB, Lust in Action: An Abstraction. Language and Style 14: 251 - 270, 1981.

DGH and WLB, Metagram Software - A New Perspective on the Art of Computation, Rome Air Development Center, RADC-TR-81-118, October 1981.

WLB, Ontology in Knowledge Representation in CIM. Center for Manufacturing Productivity and Technology Transfer, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Report No. CIMNW85TR034, January 1985.

Phase 3: Natural Intelligence

Work in this phase went in two directions, neural foundations and cultural evolution. In this phase of work Hays and I, for the most part, stopped using the network notation we’d been using the previous two phases. It was simply too difficult to do, though I’ve developed extensive notes on that subject after completing my book on music, Beethoven’s Anvil. We did, however, retain certain broad features of that earlier work.

During the previous phase we’d organized the system into four degrees: 1) sensorimotor, systemic, episodic, and gnomonic. The last three were cognitive. We retained that in the paper, Principles and Development of Natural Intelligence, which we drafted in the early 1980s. And we retained the notion of recursive elaboration (through metalingual definition and other mechanisms) in the papers on cultural evolution. That scheme is retained in Hays’ book on the evolution of technology, which he developed for use in an online course on that subject that he taught through the New School.

WLB and DGH, Metaphor, Recognition, and Neural Process. American Journal of Semiotics 5: 59 - 79, 1987.

WLB and DGH, Principles and Development of Natural Intelligence. Journal of Social and Biological Structures 11, 293 - 322, 1988.

WLB and DGH, A Note on Why Natural Selection Leads to Complexity. Journal of Social and Biological Structures 13, 33-40, 1990.

WLB and DGH, The Evolution of Cognition. Journal of Social and Biological Structures 13, 297-320, 1990.

WLB, The Evolution of Narrative and the Self. Journal of Social and Evolutionary Systems, 16(2): 129-155, 1993.

WLB, Stages in the Evolution of Music. Journal of Social and Evolutionary Systems, 16(3): 283-296, 1993.

DGH, The Evolution of Expressive Culture. Journal of Social and Evolutionary Systems, 15: 187-215, 1992.

DGH, The Evolution of Technology Through Four Cognitive Ranks. White Plains, NY: Connected Education, 1993.

WLB, First Person: Neuro-Cognitive Notes on the Self in Life and in Fiction, PsyArt: A Hyperlink Journal for Psychological Study of the Arts, August 21, 2000,
URL: http://www.psyartjournal.com/article/show/l_benzon-first_person_neuro_cognitive_notes_on_th

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Mind-Culture Co-evolution: a website dedicated to the account of cultural evolution Dave Hays and I developed during the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

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