Simulating Marx: Herbert A. Simon’s cognitivist approach to dialectical materialism

A new article in History of the Human Sciences will interest AHP readers: “Simulating Marx: Herbert A. Simon’s cognitivist approach to dialectical materialism,” by Enrico Petracca. Abstract:

Starting in the 1950s, computer programs for simulating cognitive processes and intelligent behaviour were the hallmark of Good Old-Fashioned Artificial Intelligence and ‘cognitivist’ cognitive science. This article examines a somewhat neglected case of simulation pursued by one of the founding fathers of simulation methodology, Herbert A. Simon. In the 1970s and 1980s, Simon had repeated contacts with Marxist countries and scientists, in the context of which he advanced the idea that cognitivism could be used as a framework for simulating dialectical materialism. Simon’s idea was, in particular, to represent dialectical processes through a ‘symbolic’ version of dialectical logic. This article explores the context of Simon’s interaction with Marxist countries—China and the USSR—and also assesses the outcome of the simulation. The difficulty with simulating distinctive features of dialectical materialism is read in light of the underlying assumptions of cognitivism and, ultimately, in light of the attempt to tame a rival world view.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.