It is a live possibility that certain of our experiences reliably misrepresent the world around us. I argue that tracking theories of mentalrepresentation (e.g. those of Dretske, Fodor, and Millikan) have difficulty allowing for this possibility, and that this is a major consideration against them.
The main thesis of this paper is twofold. In the first half of the paper, (§§1-2), I argue that there are two notions of mentalrepresentation, which I call objective and subjective. In the second part (§§3-7), I argue that this casts familiar tracking theories of mentalrepresentation as incomplete: while it is clear how they might account for objective representation, they at least require supplementation to account for subjective representation.
This dissertation argues that mentalrepresentation is identical to phenomenal consciousness, and everything else that appears to be both mental and a matter of representation is not genuine mentalrepresentation, but either in some way derived from mentalrepresentation, or a case of non-mentalrepresentation.
Embedded and embodied approaches to cognition urge that (1) complicated internal representations may be avoided by letting features of the environment drive behavior, and (2) environmental structures can play an enabling role in cognition, allowing prior cognitive processes to solve novel tasks. Such approaches are thus in a natural position to oppose the ‘thesis of linguistic structuring’: The claim that the ability to use language results in a wholesale recapitulation of linguistic structure in onboard mentalrepresentation. Prominent examples (...) of researchers adopting this critical stance include Andy Clark, Michael Wheeler, and Mark Rowlands. But is such opposition warranted? Since each of these authors advocate accounts of mentalrepresentation that are broadly connectionist, I survey research on formal language computation in artificial neural networks, and argue that results indicate a strong form of the linguistic structuring thesis is true: Internal representational systems recapitulate significant linguistic structure, even on a connectionist account of mentalrepresentation. I conclude by sketching how my conclusion can nonetheless be viewed as consistent with and complimentary to an embedded/embodied account of the role of linguistic structure in cognition. (shrink)
In Philosophy of MentalRepresentation five of the most original and important thinkers in philosophy of mind engage in an overlapping dialogue about mentalrepresentation. In new papers, contributors Andy Clark, Robert Cummins, Daniel Dennett, John Haugeland, and Brian Cantwell Smith each investigate the views and claims of one of the other contributors regarding mentalrepresentation. The subject then offers a reply. An exciting feature of this collection is the dynamic discussion among all contributors (...) following each exchange. This collection offers the latest thinking on mentalrepresentation carefully and critically analyzed by the leading thinkers in the field. (shrink)
Many have urged that the biggest obstacles to a physicalistic understanding of consciousness are the problems raised in connection with the subjectivity of consciousness. These problems are most acutely expressed in consideration of the knowledge argument against physicalism. I develop a novel account of the subjectivity of consciousness by explicating the ways in which mental representations may be perspectival. Crucial features of my account involve analogies between the representations involved in sensory experience and the ways in which pictorial representations (...) exhibit perspectives or points of view. I argue that the resultant account of subjectivity provides a basis for the strongest response physicalists can give to the knowledge argument. (shrink)
How can the human mind represent the external world? What is thought, and can it be studied scientifically? Does it help to think of the mind as a kind of machine? Tim Crane sets out to answer questions like these in a lively and straightforward way, presuming no prior knowledge of philosophy or related disciplines. Since its first publication in 1995, The Mechanical Mind has introduced thousands of people to some of the most important ideas in contemporary philosophy of mind. (...) Tim Crane explains some fundamental ideas that cut across philosophy of mind, artificial intelligence and cognitive science: what the mind-body problem is; what a computer is and how it works; what thoughts are and how computers and minds might have them. He examines different models of the mind from dualist to eliminativist, and questions whether there can be thought without language and whether the mind is subject to the same causal lsaws as natural phenomena. The result is a fascinating exploration of the theories and arguments surrounding the notions of thought and representation. The edition has been fully revised and updated, and includes a new chapter on consciousness and new sections on modularity and evolutionary psychology. There are also guides for further reading, a chronology and a new glossary of terms such as mentalese, connectionism and the homonculus fallacy. The Mechanical Mind is accessible to the general reader as well as students, and anyone interested in the mechanism of our minds. (shrink)
People mentally represent the shapes of objects. For instance, the mentalrepresentation of an eagle is different when one thinks about a flying or resting eagle. This study examined the role of shape in mental representations of similes (i.e., metaphoric comparisons). We tested the prediction that when people process a simile they will mentally represent the entities of the comparison as having a similar shape. We conducted two experiments in which participants read sentences that either did (experimental (...) sentences) or did not (control sentences) invite comparing two entities. For the experimental sentences, the ground of the comparison was explicit in Experiment 1 (“X has the ability to Z, just like Y”) and implicit in Experiment 2 (“X is like Y”). After having read the sentence, participants were presented with line drawings of the two objects, which were either similarly or dissimilarly shaped. They judged whether both objects were mentioned in the preceding sentence. For the experimental sentences, recognition latencies were shorter for similarly shaped objects than for dissimilarly shaped objects. For the control sentences, we did not find such an effect of similarity in shape. These findings suggest that a perceptual symbol of shape is activated when processing similes. (shrink)
In Holism: A Shopper's Guide Fodor and LePore contend that there could be punctate minds; minds capable of being in only a single type of representational state. The Kantian idea that the construction of perceptual representations requires the synthesizing activity of the mind is invoked to argue against the possibility of punctate minds. Fodor's commitment to an inferential theory of perception is shown to share crucial assumptions with the Kantian view and hence to lead to the same conclusion. The argument (...) from the need for synthesis is then extended beyond the perceptual case to mentalrepresentation in general. (shrink)
It is supposed to be common knowledge about the history of ideas that one of the few medieval philosophical contributions preserved in modern philosophical thought is the idea that mental phenomena are distinguished from physical phenomena by their intentionality, their directedness toward some object. As is usually the case with such commonplaces about the history of ideas, this claim is not quite true. Medieval philosophers routinely described ordinary physical phenomena, such as reflections in mirrors or sounds in the air, (...) as exhibiting intentionality, while they described what modern philosophers would take to be typically mental phenomena, such as sensation and imagination, as ordinary physical processes. Still, it is true that medieval philosophers would regard all acts of cognition as characterized by intentionality, on account of which all these acts are some sort of representations of their intended objects. This course is going to provide a broad survey of the conceptual relationships between intentionality, cognition and mentalrepresentation as conceived by some of the greatest medieval philosophers, including Aquinas, Scotus, Ockham and Buridan, and some of their lesser known contemporaries. The clarification of these conceptual connections sheds some light not only on the intriguing historical relationships between medieval and modern thought on these issues, but also on some fundamental questions in the philosophy of mind as it is conceived today. (shrink)
The relationship between mentalrepresentation and consciousness is considered. What it means to 'represent', and several types of representation (e.g., analogue, digital, spatial, linguistic, mathematical), are described. Concepts relevant to mentalrepresentation in general (e.g., multiple levels of processing, structure/process differences, mapping) and in specific domains (e.g., mental imagery, linguistic/propositional theories, production systems, connectionism, dynamics) are discussed. Similarities (e.g., using distinctions between different forms of representation to predict different forms of consciousness, parallels between (...) digital architectures of the brain and connectionist models) and dissociations (e.g., insensitivity to gaps in subjective experience, explicit memory/implicit memory, automatic processing/controlled processing, blindsight, neglect, prediction/ explanation) of mentalrepresentation and consciousness are discussed. It is concluded that representational systems are separable from consciousness systems, and that mentalrepresentation appears necessary but not sufficient for consciousness. Considerations for future research on correspondences between representation and consciousness are suggested. (shrink)
This essay explores some of the central aspects of Aquinas's account of mentalrepresentation, focusing in particular on his views about the intentionality of concepts (or intelligible species). It begins by demonstrating the need for a new interpretation of his account, showing in particular that the standard interpretations all face insurmountable textual difficulties. It then develops the needed alternative and explains how it avoids the sorts of problems plaguing the standard interpretations. Finally, it draws out the implications of (...) this interpretation with the aim of correcting some persistent misunderstandings of the connection between Aquinas's views and those developed by contemporary philosophers of mind. (shrink)
The notion of a "mentalrepresentation" is, arguably, in the first instance a theoretical construct of cognitive science. As such, it is a basic concept of the Computational Theory of Mind, according to which cognitive states and processes are constituted by the occurrence, transformation and storage (in the mind/brain) of information-bearing structures (representations) of one kind or another.
Book Information Philosophy of MentalRepresentation. Philosophy of MentalRepresentation Hugh Clapin , ed., Oxford: Clarendon Press , 2002 , xv + 332 , £40 ( cloth ), £18.99 ( paper ) Edited by Hugh Clapin . Oxford: Clarendon Press. Pp. xv + 332. £40.
In his, ‘Descartes' Ontology of Thought’, Alan Nelson presents, on Descartes' behalf, a compositional theory of mentalrepresentation according to which the content of any mentalrepresentation is either simple or is entirely constituted by a combination of innate simples. Here the simples are our ideas of God, thought, extension, and union. My objection will be that it is simply ludicrous to think that any four simples are adequate to the task of combining to constitute all (...) of human thought, and that the simples God, thought, extension, and union are particularly ill suited to it. (shrink)
Mentalrepresentation is a metaphor.Â It has perhaps become so entrenched that it appears to have been frozen, and it is easy to lose sight of its metaphorical character.Â Literally, a representation is a re-presentation, a symbol that stands for something else because that thing canÂ’t be with us.Â I send my parents photos of the grandchildren because e-mail is cheaper than air tickets.Â I consult a map of Adelaide to find the shortest route to the philosophy (...) department because wandering through the streets would take too much time.Â Perhaps in a similar sense I use words in this discussion because the very ideas in my head have no way of being transferred directly to yours.Â It is tempting to think that when you hear them thoughts in your head substitute in further processing for the sounds I produce or for the words they encode.Â But if I am right in what follows, we should resist this temptation. (shrink)
Here is an overview of what is to come. In Sections I and II, I will sketch two of the projects frequently pursued by moral philosophers, and the methods typically invoked in those projects. I will argue that these projects presuppose (or at least suggest) a particular sort of account of the mentalrepresentation of human value systems, since the methods make sense only if we assume a certain kind of story about how the human mind stores information (...) about values. The burden of my argument in Section III will be that while the jury is still out, there is some evidence suggesting that this account of mentalrepresentation is mistaken. If it is mistaken, it follows that two of the central methods of moral philosophy have to be substantially modified, or perhaps abandoned, and that the goals philosophers have sought to achieve with these methods may themselves be misguided. I fear that many of my philosophical colleagues will find this a quite radical suggestion. But if anything is clear in this area, it is that the methods we will be considering have not been conspicuously successful, though it certainly has not been for want of trying. So perhaps it is time for some radical, empirically informed rethinking of goals and methods in these parts of moral philosophy. (shrink)
On its face, Hume's account of mentalrepresentation involves at least two elements. On the one hand, Hume often seems to write as though the representational properties of an idea are fixed solely by what it is a copy or image of. But, on the other, Hume's treatment of abstract ideas (and other similar cases) makes it clear that the representational properties of a Humean idea sometimes depend, not just on what it is copied from, but also on (...) the manner in which the mind associates it with other ideas. Past interpretations of Hume have tended to focus on one of these elements of his account to the neglect of the other. But no interpretation of this sort is likely to capture the role that both copying and association play within Hume's discussion. In what follows, I argue that the most plausible way of understanding Hume's discussion involves attributing to him a unified account of mentalrepresentation in which both of these elements play a central role. I close by discussing the manner in which reading Hume in this way would alter our understanding of the relationship between Hume's thought and contemporary philosophy of mind. (shrink)
To a cognitive psychologist discourse comprehension poses a number of interesting problems both in terms of mentalrepresentation and mental operations. In this paper we suggest that certain of these problems can be brought into clear focus by employing a procedural approach to discourse description. In line with this approach a general framework for the mentalrepresentation of discourse is discussed in which distinctions between different types of memory partitions are proposed. It is argued that (...) one needs to distinguish both between focussed representations available in immediate working memory and nonfocussed representations available in long-term memory and also between representations arising from the asserted information in the discourse and those arising from what is presupposed by it. In the second half of the paper a particular problem of anaphoric reference is discussed within the context of this framework. A general memory search procedure is outlined which contains three parameters for determining the search operation. We then attempt to describe certain anaphoric expressions such as personal pronouns and full definite noun phrases in terms of the execution of this search procedure, where distinctions arise from the parameter specification derived from the expressions.The cognitive psychology of discourse is concerned with the nature of the mental processes entailed in understanding what is written or spoken, and the problem of how these processes might be realised in the mind of the understander given the psychological constraints of limited attention and memory which we know to obtain. One very attractive line of attack is to view the many and various aspects of a discourse as having an instructional component, in the sense that the reader or listener is being instructed to assemble representations of the elements of discourse in a particular way. An example of this is to be found in a treatment of topic marking within the topic/comment distinction (Halliday, 1976): topic identification may be hought of as an instruction to implement a procedure in which the topic content is construed as an address in memory to which new (comment) information is to be affixed (e.g. Broadbent, 1973; Haviland & Clark, 1974).While any attempt at producing a process-model for comprehensioninevitably makes use of such a procedural view, it is also sensible to consider a text as having a content, which is more directly interpret-able as a set of statements. In the present paper, we shall first consider the question of text content. This immediately raises the problem of how to treat anaphoric reference, which is one of the key contributors to text cohesion. Finally, we shall attempt to illustrate how the instructional or procedural aspect of discourse interacts with the content aspect by reference to a specific problem of anaphoric reference. (shrink)
Judea Pearl has argued that counterfactuals and causality are central to intelligence, whether natural or artificial, and has helped create a rich mathematical and computational framework for formally analyzing causality. Here, we draw out connections between these notions and various current issues in cognitive science, including the nature of mental “programs” and mentalrepresentation. We argue that programs (consisting of algorithms and data structures) have a causal (counterfactual-supporting) structure; these counterfactuals can reveal the nature of mental (...) representations. Programs can also provide a causal model of the external world. Such models are, we suggest, ubiquitous in perception, cognition, and language processing. (shrink)
The "tangle" referred to in my title is a special set of problems that arise in understanding the evolution of mentalrepresentation. These are problems over and above those involved in reconstructing evolutionary histories in general, over and above those involved in dealing with human evolution, and even over and above those involved in tackling the evolution of other human psychological traits. I am talking about a peculiar and troublesome set of interactions and possibilities, linked to long-standing debates (...) about the status of folk psychology and the nature of semantic properties. (shrink)
The claim that similarity plays a role in representation has been philosophically discredited. Psychologists, however, routinely analyse the success of mental representations for guiding behaviour in terms of a similarity between representation and the world. I provide a foundation for this practice by developing a philosophically responsible account of the relationship between similarity and representation in natural systems. I analyse similarity in terms of the existence of a suitable homomorphism between two structures. The key insight is (...) that by restricting attention to only those homomorphisms induced by causal processes, we can solve two philosophical problems with a single assumption. First, causal structure provides an adequate source for the bias required to ensure the similarity relation is non-trivial; second, it provides an adequate source for the directionality required to move from similarity to representation. I defend this account against objections by Goodman and van Fraassen and demonstrate that it is indeed the account of similarity's role in representation assumed by psychological practice. (shrink)
One oft the most fascinating abilities of humans is the ability to become conscious of the own physical and mental states. In this systematic investigation of self-consciousness, a representational theory is developed that is able to distinguish between different levels of self-consciousness. The most basic levels are already present in such simple animals as ants. From these basic forms, which are also relevant for adult human self-consciousness, high-level self-consciousness including self-knowledge can arise. Thereby, the theory is not only able (...) to integrate developmental considerations but also to sharply distinguish different aspects of the complex phenomenon self-consciousness. Pathological breakdowns of these different aspects, as they can be found in schizophrenia, are explained by specific impairments on different levels of self-representation. In this way, the work shows that a naturalistic theory of self-consciousness is possible, if the analysis starts with very simple and basic mechanisms instead of starting on the »top of the iceberg«. (shrink)
Many philosophers and psychologists have attempted to elucidate the nature of mentalrepresentation by appealing to notions like isomorphism or abstract structural resemblance. The ‘structural representations’ that these theorists champion are said to count as representations by virtue of functioning as internal models of distal systems. In his 2007 book, Representation Reconsidered, William Ramsey endorses the structural conception of mentalrepresentation, but uses it to develop a novel argument against representationalism, the widespread view that cognition (...) essentially involves the manipulation of mental representations. Ramsey argues that although theories within the ‘classical’ tradition of cognitive science once posited structural representations, these theories are being superseded by newer theories, within the tradition of connectionism and cognitive neuroscience, which rarely if ever appeal to structural representations. Instead, these theories seem to be explaining cognition by invoking so-called ‘receptor representations’, which, Ramsey claims, aren’t genuine representations at all—despite being called representations, these mechanisms function more as triggers or causal relays than as genuine stand-ins for distal systems. I argue that when the notions of structural and receptor representation are properly explicated, there turns out to be no distinction between them. There only appears to be a distinction between receptor and structural representations because the latter are tacitly conflated with the ‘mental models’ ostensibly involved in offline cognitive processes such as episodic memory and mental imagery. While structural representations might count as genuine representations, they aren’t distinctively mental representations, for they can be found in all sorts of non-intentional systems such as plants. Thus to explain the kinds of offline cognitive capacities that have motivated talk of mental models, we must develop richer conceptions of mentalrepresentation than those provided by the notions of structural and receptor representation. (shrink)
One of the central debates in cognitive science is the dispute over the role of representation in cognition: on computational/representational accounts, representations are theoretically central; on dynamic systems approaches in which cognition is investigated as a particular sort of physical process, representations play either no role, or, at best, a derivative one. But these two perspectives lead to a deeply unsatisfying theoretical divide: accounts situated in the representational camp are plagued by the inscrutable problem of intentionality, while those hedging (...) towards anti-representationalism seem incapable of saying anything theoretically interesting about high-level cognition. This unhelpful polarization is due in part, at least, to a muddy debate; while some take representationalism to be a commitment to the necessity of conceptual representations for cognition, representations the having of which require certain conceptual capacities, others do not. Recently, there has been a surge of work on non-conceptual representation. This article aims to add to this movement by suggesting a particular cognitive mechanism for non-conceptual representations, one that plays a pivotal role in making conceptual representations possible. One of the central consequences of this new view of representation is the possibility of a non-question-begging naturalistic account of intentionality. (shrink)
Existential phenomenologists hold that the two most basic forms of intelligent behavior, learning, and skillful action, can be described and explained without recourse to mind or brain representations. This claim is expressed in two central notions in Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception: the intentional arc and the tendency to achieve a maximal grip. The intentional arc names the tight connection between body and world, such that, as the active body acquires skills, those skills are stored, not as representations in the mind, (...) but as dispositions to respond to the solicitations of situations in the world. A phenomenology of skill acquisition confirms that, as one acquires expertise, the acquired know-how is experienced as finer and finer discriminations of situations paired with the appropriate response to each. Maximal grip names the body's tendency to refine its responses so as to bring the current situation closer to an optimal gestalt. Thus, successful learning and action do not require propositional mental representations. They do not require semantically interpretable brain representations either.Simulated neural networks exhibit crucial structural features of the intentional arc, and Walter Freeman's account of the brain dynamics underlying perception and action is structurally isomorphic with Merleau-Ponty's account of the way a skilled agent is led by the situation to move towards obtaining a maximal grip. (shrink)
Ramsey (1997) argues that connectionist representations 'do not earn their explanatory keep'. The aim of this paper is to examine the argument Ramsey gives to support that conclusion. In doing so, I identify two kinds of explanatory need—need relative to a possible explanation and need relative to a true explanation and argue that internal representations are not needed for either connectionist or nonconnectionist possible explanations but that it is quite likely that they are needed for true explanations. However, to show (...) that the latter is the case requires more than a consideration of the form of explanation involved. (shrink)
The "teleosemantic" program is part of the attempt to give a naturalistic explanation of the semantic properties of mental representations. The aim is to show how the internal states of a wholly physical agent could, as a matter of objective fact, represent the world beyond them. The most popular approach to solving this problem has been to use concepts of physical correlation with some kinship to those employed in information theory (Dretske 1981, 1988; Fodor 1987, 1990). Teleosemantics, which tries (...) to solve the problem using a concept of biological function, arrived in the mid 1980s with ground-breaking works by Millikan (1984) and Papineau (1984, 1987).<sup>1</sup>. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that the indirect realists’ recourse to mental representations does not allow them to account for the possibility of hallucination, nor for the presentational character of visual experience. To account for the presentational character, I suggest a kind of intentionalism that is based on the interdependency between the perceived object and the embodied perceiver. This approach provides a positive account to the effect that genuine perception and hallucination are different kinds of states. Finally, I offer (...) a tentative suggestion as to how a hallucinatory experience may still be mistaken for a genuine perceptual experience. (shrink)