The role of content in computational accounts of cognition is a matter of some controversy. An early prominent view held that the explanatory relevance of content consists in its supervenience on the the formal properties of computational states (see, e.g., Fodor 1980). For reasons that derive from the familiar Twin Earth thought experiments, it is usually thought that if content is to supervene on formal properties, it must be narrow; that is, it must not be the sort of content that (...) determines reference and truth-conditions. An interesting alternative to this view has recently been proposed by Egan (1995). According to Egan, the explanatory role of content is such that contents must in general be broad to be explanatorily relevant. But Egan’s view involves a non-realist interpretation of content assignments. I will argue here that this non-realism about contents is undermotivated. A realist variation on her view of the explanatory role of content, however, would survive this criticism. This realist variation, I suggest, shares with the views of other commentators on Marr’s theory (e.g., Burge 1986; Shapiro 1993; forthcoming) certain commitments concerning the supervenience base of visual contents and processes. I will argue, however, that these commitments beg important questions regarding the individuation of cognitive states and processes. I conclude, contrary to Burge and Shapiro, that Marr’s theory does not favor anti-individualism. (shrink)
Externalism holds, and internalism denies, that the individuation of many of an individual's mental states (e.g., thoughts about the physical world) depends necessarily on relations that individual bears to the physical and/or social environment. Many philosophers, externalists and internalists alike, believe that introspection yields knowledge of the contents of our thoughts that is direct and authoritative. It is not obvious, however, that the metaphysical claims of externalism are compatible with this epistemological thesis. Some (e.g., Burge, 1988; Falvey and Owens (F&O), (...) 1994) have sought to dispel the worry that there is a conflict, though they admit that if such a conflict exists, it spells trouble for externalism (see, e.g., F&O, 1994, p. 108). Boghossian has argued that there is indeed a conflict between externalism and introspective knowledge of content. Surprisingly, however, he also argues that there is a conflict between internalism and introspective knowledge of content. I will defend Boghossian's claim that there is a conflict between externalism and knowledge of content, but criticize his claim that there is a conflict between internalism and knowledge of content. (shrink)
Owens (1993) argues that one cannot accept the anti-individualistic conclusions of arguments inspired by Twin Earth thought experiments and still maintain that folk psychological states causally explain behavior. Saidel (1994) has argued that Owens' argument illegitimately individuates the contents of folk psychological states widely and causal powers narrowly. He suggests that causal powers may well be wide, and that the conditions that militate in favor of wide content also militate in favor of wide causal powers; mutatis mutandis for narrow content (...) and narrow causal powers. I argue that these suggestions are in error, and hence that Saidel's criticism is ineffective. Owens' original point is therefore likely to stand. (shrink)
Connectionism provides hope for unifying work in neuroscience, computer science, and cognitive psychology. This promise has met with some resistance from Classical Computionalists, which may have inspired Connectionists to retaliate with bold, inflationary claims on behalf of Connectionist models. This paper demonstrates, by examining three intimately connected issues, that these inflationary claims made on behalf of Connectionism are wrong. This should not be construed as an attack on Connectionism, however, since the inflated claims made on its behalf have the look (...) of cures for which there are no ailments. There is nothing wrong with Connectionism for its failure to solve illusory problems. (shrink)
The paper is an examination of the ways and extent to which neuroscience places constraints on cognitive science. In Part I, I clarify the issue, as well as the notion of levels in cognitive inquiry. I then present and address, in Part II, two arguments designed to show that facts from neuroscience are at a level too low to constrain cognitive theory in any important sense. I argue, to the contrary, that there are several respects in which facts from neurophysiology (...) will constrain cognitive theory. Part III then turns to an examination of Connectionism and Classical Cognitivism to determine which, if either, is in a better position to accomodate neural constraints in the ways suggested in Part II. (shrink)
Descartes' conception of the mind as a private entity, separable (in various ways) from the body and the world around it, has come under increasingly vigorous attack in recent years. A new and very different sort of expansion of the scope of psychology has recently been advanced by John Haugeland, who argues quite ingeniously that the Cartesian divisions between mind, body, and world are psychologically otiose. I demur, citing several traditional individuative criteria that are immune to Haugeland's case.
This paper discusses the relation between cognitive and implementational levels of analysis. Chalmers (1990, 1993) argues that a connectionist implementation of a classical cognitive architecture possesses a compositional semantics, and therefore undercuts Fodor and Pylyshyn's (1988) argument that connectionist networks cannot possess a compositional semantics. I argue that Chalmers argument misconstrues the relation between cognitive and implementational levels of analysis. This paper clarifies the distinction, and shows that while Fodor and Pylyshyn's argument survives Chalmers' critique, it cannot be used to (...) establish the irrelevance of neurophysiological implementation to cognitive modeling; some aspects of Chater and Oaksford's (1990) response to Fodor and Pylyshyn, though not all, are therefore cogent. (shrink)