Incompatible Implementations of Physical Symbol Systems

Mind and Matter 2 (2):29-51 (2004)
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Abstract

Classical cognitive science assumes that intelligently behaving systems must be symbol processors that are implemented in physical systems such as brains or digital computers. By contrast, connectionists suppose that symbol manipulating systems could be approximations of neural networks dynamics. Both classicists and connectionists argue that symbolic computation and subsymbolic dynamics are incompatible, though on different grounds. While classicists say that connectionist architectures and symbol processors are either incompatible or the former are mere implementations of the latter, connectionists reply that neural networks might be incompatible with symbol processors because the latter cannot be implementations of the former. In this contribution, the notions of 'incompatibility' and 'implementation' will be criticized to show that they must be revised in the context of the dynamical system approach to cognitive science. Examples for implementations of symbol processors that are incompatible with respect to contextual topologies will be discussed

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