Objective Similarity and Mental Representation

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 91 (4):683-704 (2013)

Authors
Alistair Isaac
University of Edinburgh
Abstract
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.
Keywords isomorphism  structural representation  newman problem
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DOI 10.1080/00048402.2012.728233
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References found in this work BETA

Knowlegde and the Flow of Information.F. Dretske - 1989 - Trans/Form/Ação 12:133-139.

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