Cognisance and cognitive science. Part one: The generality constraint

Philosophical Psychology 1 (2):235 – 258 (1988)
Abstract
I distinguish between being cognisant and being able to perform intelligent operations. The former, but not the latter, minimally involves the capacity to make adequate judgements about one's relation to objects in the environment. The referential nature of cognisance entails that the mental states of cognisant systems must be inter-related holistically, such that an individual thought becomes possible because of its relation to a system of potential thoughts. I use Gareth Evans' 'Generality Constraint' as a means of describing how the reference and holism of mental states in cognisant systems are mutually dependent. Next, I describe attempts to deny the relevance of holism and reference by positing a mentalese. These attempts fail because the meanings of symbols are under determined, with there being no principled means of distinguishing between the mental tokening of a symbol and its disambiguation. I argue that the connectionist meta-theory does not encounter this problem because it is able to encompass the holism of the mental. Recent attempts to show that symbol processing theories of thought must be preferred to connectionist theories do not work. Despite appearances to the contrary, the Generality Constraint favours connectionist not symbol-processing theories.
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