Coherence in Thought and Action


This book is an essay on how people make sense of each other and the world they live in. Making sense is the activity of fitting something puzzling into a coherent pattern of mental representations that include concepts, beliefs, goals, and actions. Paul Thagard proposes a general theory of coherence as the satisfaction of multiple interacting constraints, and discusses the theory's numerous psychological and philosophical applications. Much of human cognition can be understood in terms of coherence as constraint satisfaction, and many of the central problems of philosophy can be given coherence-based solutions. Thagard shows how coherence can help to unify psychology and philosophy, particularly when addressing questions of epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, politics, and aesthetics. He also shows how coherence can integrate cognition and emotion.

Table of Contents

  1. Preface
  2. Acknowledgments
  3. 1. Coherence in Philosophy and Psychology
  4. 2. Coherence as Constraint Satisfaction
  5. 3. Knowledge
  6. 4. Reality
  7. 5. Ethics and Politics
  8. 6. Emotion
  9. 7. Consensus
  10. 8. Probability
  11. 9. The Future of Coherence
  12. References
  13. Index