Chaotic emergence and the language of thought

Philosophical Psychology 11 (3):303-315 (1998)
Abstract
The purpose of this paper is to explore the merits of the idea that dynamical systems theory (also known as chaos theory) provides a model of the mind that can vindicate the language of thought (LOT). I investigate the nature of emergent structure in dynamical systems to assess its compatibility with causally efficacious syntactic structure in the brain. I will argue that anyone who is committed to the idea that the brain's functioning depends on emergent features of dynamical systems should have serious reservations about the LOT. First, dynamical systems theory casts doubt on one of the strongest motives for believing in the LOT: principle P, the doctrine that structure found in an effect must also be found in its cause. Second, chaotic emergence is a double-edged sword. Its tendency to cleave the psychological from the neurological undermines foundations for belief in the existence of causally efficacious representations. Overall, a dynamic conception of the brain sways us away from realist conclusions about the causal powers of representations with constituent structure.
Keywords Brain  Chaos  Language  Science  Thought
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