What Are Mental Representations?

New York, NY, United States of America: Oxford University Press (2020)
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Mental representation is one of core theoretical constructs within cognitive science and, together with the introduction of the computer as a model for the mind, is responsible for enabling the ‘cognitive turn’ in psychology and associated fields. Conceiving of cognitive processes, such as perception, motor control, and reasoning, as processes that consist in the manipulation of contentful vehicles representing the world has allowed us to refine our explanations of behavior and has led to tremendous empirical advancements. Despite the central role that the concept plays in cognitive science, there is no unanimously accepted characterization of mental representation. Technological and methodological progress in the cognitive sciences has produced numerous computational models of the brain and mind, many of which have introduced mutually incompatible notions of mental representation. This proliferation has led some philosophers to question the metaphysical status and explanatory usefulness of the notion. This book contains state-of-the-art chapters on the topic of mental representation, assembling some of the leading experts in the field and allowing them to engage in meaningful exchanges over some of the most contentious questions. The collection gathers both proponents and critics of the concept of mental representation, allowing them to engage with topics such as the ontological status of representations, the possibility of formulating a general account of mental representation which would fit our best explanatory practices, and the possibility of delivering such an account in fully naturalistic terms.



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Author Profiles

Joulia Smortchkova
University Of Oxford
Krzysztof (Krys) Dolega
Université Libre de Bruxelles
Tobias Schlicht
Ruhr-Universität Bochum

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