Synthese:1-30 (forthcoming)

Structural representations are increasingly popular in philosophy of cognitive science. A key virtue they seemingly boast is that of meeting Ramsey's job description challenge. For this reason, structural representations appear tailored to play a clear representational role within cognitive architectures. Here, however, I claim that structural representations do not meet the job description challenge. This is because even our most demanding account of their functional profile is satisfied by at least some receptors, which paradigmatically fail the job description challenge. Hence, the functional profile typically associated with structural representations does not identify representational posits. After a brief introduction, I present, in the second section of the paper, the job description challenge. I clarify why receptors fail to meet it and highlight why, as a result, they should not be considered representations. In the third section I introduce what I take to be the most demanding account of structural representations at our disposal, namely Gładziejewski's account. Provided the necessary background, I turn from exposition to criticism. In the first half of the fourth section, I equate the functional profile of structural representations and receptors. To do so, I show that some receptors boast, as a matter of fact, all the functional features associated with structural representations. Since receptors function merely as causal mediators, I conclude structural representations are mere causal mediators too. In the second half of the fourth section I make this conclusion intuitive with a toy example. I then conclude the paper, anticipating some objections my argument invites.
Keywords Sub-personal representations  Structural representations  Feature detectors  Eliminativism  Job Description Challenge
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11229-021-03032-8
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Translate to english
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 64,209
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

Representation in Cognitive Science.Nicholas Shea - 2018 - Oxford University Press.

View all 58 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Are Generative Models Structural Representations?Marco Facchin - 2021 - Minds and Machines 31 (2):277-303.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Representations Gone Mental.Alex Morgan - 2014 - Synthese 191 (2):213-244.
Structural Representations and the Brain.Oron Shagrir - 2012 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 63 (3):519-545.
Coherence of Structural and Functional Descriptions of Technical Artefacts.Peter Kroes - 2006 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 37 (1):137-151.
Representations of Structural Closure Operators.José Gil-Férez - 2011 - Archive for Mathematical Logic 50 (1-2):45-73.
Structural Representations and the Explanatory Constraint.Maria Serban - 2013 - Croatian Journal of Philosophy 13 (2):277-291.
Exploitable Isomorphism and Structural Representation.Nicholas Shea - 2014 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 114 (2pt2):123-144.


Added to PP index

Total views
28 ( #393,225 of 2,455,352 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
20 ( #35,419 of 2,455,352 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes