Representations and cognitive explanations: Assessing the dynamicist challenge in cognitive science

Cognitive Science 22 (3):295-317 (1998)
Abstract
Advocates of dynamical systems theory (DST) sometimes employ revolutionary rhetoric. In an attempt to clarify how DST models differ from others in cognitive science, I focus on two issues raised by DST: the role for representations in mental models and the conception of explanation invoked. Two features of representations are their role in standing-in for features external to the system and their format. DST advocates sometimes claim to have repudiated the need for stand-ins in DST models, but I argue that they are mistaken. Nonetheless, DST does offer new ideas as to the format of representations employed in cognitive systems. With respect to explanation, I argue that some DST models are better seen as conforming to the covering-law conception of explanation than to the mechanistic conception of explanation implicit in most cognitive science research. But even here, I argue, DST models are a valuable complement to more mechanistic cognitive explanations
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