The scientific use of 'representation' and 'function': Avoiding explanatory vacuity

Synthese 161 (1):119 - 139 (2008)
Nearly all of the ways philosophers currently attempt to define the terms ‘representation’ and ‘function’ undermine the scientific application of those terms by rendering the scientific explanations in which they occur vacuous. Since this is unacceptable, we must develop analyses of these terms that avoid this vacuity. Robert Cummins argues in this fashion in Representations, Targets, and Attitudes. He accuses ‘use theories’ of representational content of generating vacuous explanations, claims that nearly all current theories of representational content are use theories, and offers a non-use theory of representational content which avoids explanatory vacuity. One task I undertake in this article is to develop an alternative non-use theory which avoids an objection fatal to that theory
Keywords Scientific explanation  Explanation  Function  Functional explanation  Functional analysis  Mental representation  Psychological explanation  Cognitive explanation
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 15,904
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
Robert C. Cummins (1975). Functional Analysis. Journal of Philosophy 72 (November):741-64.

View all 8 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Pete Mandik & Rick Grush (2002). Representational Parts. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 1 (389):394.
Mark H. Bickhard (1993). Representational Content in Humans and Machines. Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Artificial Intelligence 5:285-33.
Richard J. Hall (1990). Does Representational Content Arise From Biological Function? PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1990:193 - 199.
Adam Toon (2010). Models as Make-Believe. In Roman Frigg & Matthew Hunter (eds.), Beyond Mimesis and Convention: Representation in Art and Science. Boston Studies in Philosophy of Science

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

44 ( #75,887 of 1,725,561 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

5 ( #134,647 of 1,725,561 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.