Intentionality and information processing: An alternative model for cognitive science

Behavioral and Brain Sciences 9 (1):121-38 (1986)
This article responds to two unresolved and crucial problems of cognitive science: (1) What is actually accomplished by functions of the nervous system that we ordinarily describe in the intentional idiom? and (2) What makes the information processing involved in these functions semantic? It is argued that, contrary to the assumptions of many cognitive theorists, the computational approach does not provide coherent answers to these problems, and that a more promising start would be to fall back on mathematical communication theory and, with the help of evolutionary biology and neurophysiology, to attempt a characterization of the adaptive processes involved in visual perception. Visual representations are explained as patterns of cortical activity that are enabled to focus on objects in the changing visual environment by constantly adjusting to maintain levels of mutual information between pattern and object that are adequate for continuing perceptual control. In these terms, the answer proposed to (1) is that the intentional functions of vision are those involved in the establishment and maintenance of such representations, and to (2) that semantic features are added to the information processes of vision with the focus on objects that these representations accomplish. The article concludes with proposals for extending this account of intentionality to the higher domains of conceptualization and reason, and with speculation about how semantic information-processing might be achieved in mechanical systems
Keywords artificial intelligence   cognitive science   communication theory   computational models   information processing   intentionality   mental representation   philosophy of mind   vision
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DOI 10.1017/S0140525X00021750
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John Searle (1983). Intentionality. Oxford University Press.

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