From The Sciences of the Artificial to Cognitive History

The fourth in a series of excerpts from Minds, Models and Milieux: Commemorating the Centennial of the Birth of Herbert Simon.

Subrata Dasgupta

It is well known that Herbert Simon was a 20th century scientific polymath who made seminal contributions to the social sciences, behavioral sciences, design theory, computer science, and the philosophy of science (Dasgupta, 2003a, 2003b). My interest in Simon in this essay, however, lies in his remarkable and highly original book, The Sciences of the Artificial (Simon, 1996). In this work (henceforth referred to as Sciences), which in a sense unifies his multidisciplinary contributions, Simon dwells on the concept and nature of the human-made or artificial world, the things that populate it – artifacts – and in what sense and how the making of the artificial yields to scientific investigation.

In this chapter I wish to explore a particular consequence of the ideas put forth in Sciences. I wish to show how some of the key concepts advanced in it affords a conceptual framework for a (relatively) new historical discipline for the study of human creativity, the creative tradition, and the intellectual tradition. This discipline is called cognitive history.