The role of representation in computation

Cognitive Processing 10 (1):53-62 (2009)
Authors
Gerard O'Brien
University of Adelaide
Jonathan Opie
University of Adelaide
Abstract
Reformers urge that representation no longer earns its explanatory keep in cognitive science, and that it is time to discard this troublesome concept. In contrast, we hold that without representation cognitive science is utterly bereft of tools for explaining natural intelligence. In order to defend the latter position, we focus on the explanatory role of representation in computation. We examine how the methods of digital and analog computation are used to model a relatively simple target system, and show that representation plays an in-eliminable explanatory role in both cases. We conclude that, to the extent that biologic systems engage in computation, representation is destined to play an explanatory role in cognitive science.
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