The brain as a model-making machine

In this paper, I will introduce you to a new theory of mental representation, emphasizing two important features. First, the theory coheres very well with folk psychology; better, I believe, than its competitors (e.g. Cummins, 1996; Dretske, 1988; Fodor, 1987 and Millikan, 1989, with which it has the most in common), though I will do little by way of direct comparison in this paper. Second, it receives support from current neuroscience. While other theories may be consistent with current neuroscience, none that I know of actually receives some degree of confirmation from it. There are many different kinds of representations. Some examples are maps, words, meter and gauge readings, diagrams, pictures, scale models, computer simulations, blueprints, charts, musical notation, smoke signals, semaphore, and computer data structures. Qua representations, they all possess intentionality, or aboutness: maps are about places, most words are about the entities they refer to, meters and gauges are about the quantities they measure, etc. However, it seems they have little in common beyond this aboutness (Millikan, 1984, p. 85). Therefore we should be open to the possibility that the aboutness of different representations is ultimately to be explained in different ways. It is becoming increasingly popular to understand the aboutness of a large class of these representations in terms of function.1 For example, a tire gauge represents one of the properties that it indicates or carries information about, namely air pressure. However, it also carries information about other quantities. If the pressure and volume of the tire are kept constant, the tire gauge will indicate the temperature of the air inside the tire, and if the temperature and pressure are kept constant, the gauge will indicate the tire volume. However, although the tire gauge indicates these things, it does not represent them. It only..
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