On the compatibility of connectionist and classical models

Philosophical Psychology 2 (1):5-16 (1989)
This paper presents considerations in favour of the view that traditional (classical) architectures can be seen as emergent features of connectionist networks with distributed representation. A recent paper by William Bechtel (1988) which argues for a similar conclusion is unsatisfactory in that it fails to consider whether the compositional syntax and semantics attributed to mental representations by classical models can emerge within a connectionist network. The compatibility of the two paradigms hinges largely, I suggest, on how this question is answered. Focusing on the issue of syntax, I argue that while such structure is lacking in connectionist models with local representation, it can be accommodated within networks where representation is distributed. I discuss an important paper by Smolenski (1988) which attempts to show how connectionists can incorporate the relevant syntactic structure, suggesting that some criticisms levelled against that paper by Fodor & Pylyshyn (1988) are wanting. I then go on to indicate a strategy by which a compositional syntax and semantics can be defined for the sort of network that Smolenski describes. I conclude that since the connectionist can respect the central tenets of classicism, the two approaches are compatible with one another.
Keywords Cognitive  Connectionism  Language  Smolenski, P
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DOI 10.1080/09515088908572956
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Hugh Clapin (1991). Connectionism Isn't Magic. Minds and Machines 1 (2):167-84.

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