Review of Representation Reconsidered [Book Review]

William Ramsey’s Representation Reconsidered is a superb, insightful analysis of the notion of mental representation in cognitive science. The book presents an original argument for a bold conclusion: partial eliminativism about mental representation in scientific psychology. According to Ramsey, once we examine the conditions that need to be satisfied for something to qualify as a representation, we can see those conditions are not fulfilled by the ‘representations’ posited by much of modern psychology. Cognitive science—or at least large swathes of it—has no warrant for positing representations. The structure of Ramsey’s argument repeats a familiar eliminativist strategy (c.f. Churchland (1981); Stich (1983)).1 First step: argue that in order for something to be an X, it must satisfy a certain description D (say, beliefs must satisfy the description given in folk psychology). Second step: argue that to the best of our knowledge, nothing satisfies description D (e.g. folk psychology is false). Third step: conclude that since nothing satisfies description D, there are no Xs (no beliefs). Here is how the strategy is played out in the book. First, Ramsey argues for certain minimal conditions that a representation must satisfy (what he calls the ‘job description’). Second (this takes the bulk of the book), he considers the ways in which our best psychological theories use the notion of representation. Ramsey argues that none of these uses satisfy the job description associated with a genuine representation. (A wrinkle is that some representations—those posited by the classical computational theory of cognition—do qualify as true representations. But, Ramsey claims, classical theories are in a minority in cognitive science, and their hold on the field is shrinking.) Therefore, Ramsey concludes, in most of cognitive science, there are no mental representations.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
Edit this record
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Mark as duplicate
Request removal from index
Translate to english
Revision history
Download options
Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 30,781
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Added to PP index

Total downloads
56 ( #97,141 of 2,199,744 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #300,206 of 2,199,744 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Monthly downloads
My notes
Sign in to use this feature