Semantics and the Computational Paradigm in Cognitive Psychology

Synthese 79 (1):119-141 (1989)

Authors
Eric Dietrich
State University of New York at Binghamton
Abstract
There is a prevalent notion among cognitive scientists and philosophers of mind that computers are merely formal symbol manipulators, performing the actions they do solely on the basis of the syntactic properties of the symbols they manipulate. This view of computers has allowed some philosophers to divorce semantics from computational explanations. Semantic content, then, becomes something one adds to computational explanations to get psychological explanations. Other philosophers, such as Stephen Stich, have taken a stronger view, advocating doing away with semantics entirely. This paper argues that a correct account of computation requires us to attribute content to computational processes in order to explain which functions are being computed. This entails that computational psychology must countenance mental representations. Since anti-semantic positions are incompatible with computational psychology thus construed, they ought to be rejected. Lastly, I argue that in an important sense, computers are not formal symbol manipulators.
Keywords Intentionality  Semantics  Computation
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DOI 10.1007/BF00873258
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References found in this work BETA

The Meaning of 'Meaning'.Hillary Putnam - 1975 - Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 7:131-193.
Naming and Necessity.S. Kripke - 1972 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 45 (4):665-666.
Functional Analysis.Robert Cummins - 1975 - Journal of Philosophy 72 (November):741-64.

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Citations of this work BETA

Computation Without Representation.Gualtiero Piccinini - 2008 - Philosophical Studies 137 (2):205-241.
Are Computational Transitions Sensitive to Semantics?Michael Rescorla - 2012 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 90 (4):703-721.

View all 9 citations / Add more citations

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