How can we think about things in the outside world? There is still no widely accepted theory of how mental representations get their meaning. In light of pioneering research, Nicholas Shea develops a naturalistic account of the nature of mental representation with a firm focus on the subpersonal representations that pervade the cognitive sciences.
José L. Zalabardo puts forward a new interpretation of central ideas in Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus concerning the structure of reality and our representations of it in thought and language. He presents the picture theory of propositional representation as Wittgenstein's solution to the problems that he had found in Bertrand Russell's theories of judgment. Zalabardo then attributes to Wittgenstein the view that facts and propositions are ultimate indivisible units, not the result of combining their constituents. This is Wittgenstein's solution to (...) the problem of the unity of facts and propositions. Finally, Zalabardo shows that Wittgenstein's views on the analysability of everyday propositions as truth functions of elementary propositions arise from his views on the epistemology of logic: this offers a new perspective on the nature of Tractarian analysis. (shrink)
Many philosophers have understood the representational dimension of affective states along the model of sense-perceptual experiences, even claiming the relevant affective experiences are perceptual experiences. This paper argues affective experiences involve a kind of personal level affective representation disanalogous from the representational character of perceptual experiences. The positive thesis is that affective representation is a non-transparent, non-sensory form of evaluative representation, whereby a felt valenced attitude represents the object of the experience as minimally good or bad, and (...) one experiences that evaluative standing as having the power to causally motivate the relevant attitude. I show this view can make sense of distinctive features of affective experiences, such as their valence and connection to value in a way which moves beyond current evaluativist views of affect. (shrink)
We provide conditions under which an incomplete strongly independent preorder on a convex set X can be represented by a set of mixture preserving real-valued functions. We allow X to be infi nite dimensional. The main continuity condition we focus on is mixture continuity. This is sufficient for such a representation provided X has countable dimension or satisfi es a condition that we call Polarization.
Functionalism faces a problem in accounting for the semantic powers of beliefs and other mental states. Simple causal considerations will not solve this problem, nor will any appeal to the social utility of semantic interpretations. The correct analysis of semantic representation is a teleological one, in terms of the biological purposes of mental states: whereas functionalism focuses, so to speak, only on the structure of the cognitive mechanism, the semantic perspective requires in addition that we consider the purposes of (...) the cognitive mechanism's parts. (shrink)
This paper applies a teleosemantic perspective to the question of whether there is genuine representation outside the familiar realm of belief‐desire psychology. I first explain how teleosemantics accounts for the representational powers of beliefs and desires themselves. I then ask whether biological states which are simpler than beliefs and desires can also have representational powers. My conclusion is that such biologically simple states can be ascribed representational contents, but only in a system‐relative way: such states must be ascribed varying (...) contents when viewed as components in different biological systems. I conclude by arguing that ‘the genetic code’ does not even embody this kind of system‐relative representation. (shrink)
Why do people create extra representations to help them make sense of situations, diagrams, illustrations, instructions and problems? The obvious explanation— external representations save internal memory and com- putation—is only part of the story. I discuss seven ways external representations enhance cognitive power: they change the cost structure of the inferential landscape; they provide a structure that can serve as a shareable object of thought; they create persistent referents; they facilitate re- representation; they are often a more natural (...) class='Hi'>representation of structure than mental representations; they facilitate the computation of more explicit encoding of information; they enable the construction of arbitrarily complex structure; and they lower the cost of controlling thought—they help coordinate thought. Jointly, these functions allow people to think more powerfully with external representations than without. They allow us to think the previously unthinkable. (shrink)
During the Cold War, arguments about representation were a significant part of international debates about democracy. Proponents of minimal democracy dominated these arguments, and their thin notions of representation became political common sense. I propose a view of representation that differs from the main views advocated during the Cold War. Representation has a central positive role in democratic politics: I gain political representation when my authorized representative tries to achieve my political aims, subject to dialogue (...) about those aims and to the use of mutually acceptable procedures for gaining them. Thus the opposite of representation is not participation. The opposite of representation is exclusion – and the opposite of participation is abstention. Rather than opposing participation to representation, we should try to improve representative practices and forms to make them more open, effective, and fair. (shrink)
Della Rocca concentrates on two problems crucial to Spinoza 's philosophy of mind: the requirements for having a thought about a particular object, and the problem of the mind's relation to the body. He contends that for Spinoza these two problems are linked and thus part of a systematic philosophy of mind.
Leading theorists examine the self-representational theory of consciousness as an alternative to the two dominant reductive theories of consciousness, the representational theory of consciousness and the higher-order monitoring theory. In this pioneering collection of essays, leading theorists examine the self-representational theory of consciousness, which holds that consciousness always involves some form of self-awareness. The self-representational theory of consciousness stands as an alternative to the two dominant reductive theories of consciousness, the representational theory of consciousness and the higher-order monitoring theory, combining (...) elements of both RTC and HOM theory in a novel fashion that may avoid the fundamental deficiencies of each. Although self-representationalist views have been common throughout the history of both Western and Eastern philosophy, they have been largely neglected in the recent literature on consciousness. This book approaches the self-representational theory from a range of perspectives, with contributions from scholars in analytic philosophy, phenomenology, and history of philosophy, as well as two longer essays by Antonio Damasio and David Rudrauf and Douglas Hofstadter. The book opens with six essays that argue broadly in favor of self-representationalist views, which are followed by five that argue broadly against them. Contributors next consider connections to such philosophical issues as the nature of propositional attitudes, knowledge, attention, and indexical reference. Finally, Damasio and Rudrauf link consciousness as lived with consciousness as described in neurobiological terms; and Hofstadter compares consciousness to the "strange loop" of mathematical self-reference brought to light by Gödel's incompleteness theorems. Contributors Andrew Brook, Peter Carruthers, Antonio Damasio, John J. Drummond, Jason Ford, Rocco J. Gennaro, George Graham, Christopher S. Hill, Douglas R. Hofstadter, Terry Horgan, Tomis Kapitan, Uriah Kriegel, Keith Lehrer, Joseph Levine, Robert W. Lurz, David Rudrauf, David Woodruff Smith, John Tienson, Robert Van Gulick, Kathleen Wider, Kenneth Williford, Dan Zahavi. (shrink)
Contents - Introduction; The Problem of Thomas Hobbes; Formalistic Views of Representation; 'Standing For' - Descriptive Representation; 'Standing For' - Symbolic Representation; Representing as 'Acting For' - The Analogies; The Mandate ...
Introduction: Something on the State of the Art 1 I. Functionalism and Realism 1. Operationalism and Ordinary Language 35 2. The Appeal to Tacit Knowledge in Psychological Explanations 63 3. What Psychological States are Not 79 4. Three Cheers for Propositional Attitudes 100 II. Reduction and Unity of Science 5. Special Sciences 127 6. Computation and Reduction 146 III. Intensionality and Mental Representation 7. Propositional Attitudes 177 8. Tom Swift and His Procedural Grandmother 204 9. Methodological Solipsism Considered as (...) a Research Strategy in Cognitive Psychology 225 IV. Nativism 10. The Present Status of the Innateness Controversy 257 Notes 317. (shrink)
People walk, build, paint and otherwise act together with a purpose in myriad ways. What is the relation between the actions people perform in acting together with a purpose and the outcome, or outcomes, to which their actions are directed? We argue that fully characterising this relation will require appeal not only to intention, knowledge and other familiar philosophical paraphernalia but also to another kind of representation involved in preparing and executing actions, namely motor representation. If we are (...) right, motor representation plays a central role in the story of acting together. (shrink)
: Sinhababu’s Humean Nature contains many interesting and important ideas, but in this short commentary I focus on the idea of vivid representations. Sinhababu inherits his idea of vivid representations from Hume’s discussions, in particular his discussion of calm and violent passions. I am sympathetic to the idea of developing Hume’s insight that has been largely neglected by philosophers. I believe that Sinhababu and Hume are on the right track. What I do in this short commentary is to raise some (...) questions about the details. The aim of asking these questions is not to challenge Sinhababu’s proposal, but rather to point at some interesting issues arising out of his proposal. The questions are about the nature of vividness, the effects of vivid representations, and Sinhababu’s account of alief cases. Keywords: Vivid Representation; Desire; Procrastination; Akrasia; Alief Le rappresentazioni vivide e i loro effetti Riassunto: Humean Nature di Neil Sinhababu contiene molte idee interessanti e importanti; tuttavia in questo breve commento intendo concentrarmi sulle rappresentazioni vivide. Sinhababu eredita l’idea di rappresentazione vivida dalle analisi di Hume, in particolare dall’analisi delle passioni calme e violente. Condivido l’intento di sviluppare questa intuizione di Hume, ampiamente trascurata dai filosofi. Credo che Sinhababu e Hume siano sulla strada giusta. Quanto intendo fare in questo breve commento è sollevare alcune questioni di dettaglio, il cui fine non è quello di mettere in discussione la proposta di Sinhababu, quanto piuttosto di indicare alcuni punti interessanti che emergono dalla sua proposta. Le mie questioni investono la natura della vividezza, gli effetti delle rappresentazioni vivide e la descrizione di Sinhababu dei casi di alief. Parole chiave: Rappresentazione vivida; Desiderio; Temporeggiare; Akrasia; Cattiva volontà. (shrink)
The sensorimotor theory of perceptual experience claims that perception is constituted by bodily interaction with the environment, drawing on practical knowledge of the systematic ways that sensory inputs are disposed to change as a result of movement. Despite the theory’s associations with enactivism, it is sometimes claimed that the appeal to ‘knowledge’ means that the theory is committed to giving an essential theoretical role to internal representation, and therefore to a form of orthodox cognitive science. This paper defends the (...) role ascribed to knowledge by the theory, but argues that this knowledge can and should be identified with bodily skill rather than representation. Making the further argument that the notion of ‘representation hunger’ can be replaced with ‘prima facie representation hunger’, it concludes that although the theory could optionally be developed scientifically in part by reference to internal representation, it makes a strong and natural fit with anti-representationalist embodied or enactive cognitive science. (shrink)
Cognitive representation is the single most important explanatory notion in the sciences of the mind and has served as the cornerstone for the so-called 'cognitive revolution'. This book critically examines the ways in which philosophers and cognitive scientists appeal to representations in their theories, and argues that there is considerable confusion about the nature of representational states. This has led to an excessive over-application of the notion - especially in many of the fresher theories in computational neuroscience. Representation (...) Reconsidered shows how psychological research is actually moving in a non-representational direction, revealing a radical, though largely unnoticed, shift in our basic understanding of how the mind works. (shrink)
This paper sets out a view about the explanatory role of representational content and advocates one approach to naturalising content – to giving a naturalistic account of what makes an entity a representation and in virtue of what it has the content it does. It argues for pluralism about the metaphysics of content and suggests that a good strategy is to ask the content question with respect to a variety of predictively successful information processing models in experimental psychology and (...) cognitive neuroscience; and hence that data from psychology and cognitive neuroscience should play a greater role in theorising about the nature of content. Finally, the contours of the view are illustrated by drawing out and defending a surprising consequence: that individuation of vehicles of content is partly externalist. (shrink)
I argue against theories that attempt to reduce scientific representation to similarity or isomorphism. These reductive theories aim to radically naturalize the notion of representation, since they treat scientist's purposes and intentions as non-essential to representation. I distinguish between the means and the constituents of representation, and I argue that similarity and isomorphism are common but not universal means of representation. I then present four other arguments to show that similarity and isomorphism are not the (...) constituents of scientific representation. I finish by looking at the prospects for weakened versions of these theories, and I argue that only those that abandon the aim to radically naturalize scientific representation are likely to be successful. (shrink)
Over the past few decades, the dominant approach to explaining intentionality has been a naturalistic approach, one appealing only to non-mental ingredients condoned by the natural sciences. Karen Neander’s A Mark of the Mental (2017) is the latest installment in the naturalist project, proposing a detailed and systematic theory of intentionality that combines aspects of several naturalistic approaches, invoking causal relations, teleological functions, and relations of second-order similarity. In this paper, we consider the case of perceptual representations of colors, which (...) is a challenging case for Neander’s theory. This case will brings out a general methodological concern with Neander’s and other naturalistic theories: these theories generally rest on the assumption that the mental intentionality we are acquainted with in everyday life—the phenomenon exhibited by desires for cups of coffee, perceptual experiences of dogs playing in yards, and thoughts about the weather—is the very same kind of phenomenon that cognitive science studies under labels such as “mental representation” and, in some cases, “information processing.” This assumption is dubious, as the case of Neander’s theory illustrates. (shrink)
This paper distinguishes two conceptions of representation at work in the philosophical literature. On the first, "contentive" conception (found, for example, in Searle and Fodor), something is a representation, roughly, if it has "propositional content". On the second, "indicative" conception (found, for example, in Dretske), representations must not only have content but also have the function of indicating something about the world. Desire is representational on the first view but not on the second. This paper argues that philosophers (...) and psychologists have sometimes conflated these two conceptions, and it examines the consequences of this conflation for the developmental literature on the child's understanding of mind. Specifically, recent research by Gopnik and Perner on the child's understanding of desire is motivated by an argument that equivocates between the two conceptions of representation. Finally, the paper suggests that an examination of when the child understands the possibility of misrepresentation in art would be helpful in charting the child's understanding of indicative representation. (shrink)
Many philosophers and psychologists have attempted to elucidate the nature of mental representation by appealing to notions like isomorphism or abstract structural resemblance. The ‘structural representations’ that these theorists champion are said to count as representations by virtue of functioning as internal models of distal systems. In his 2007 book, Representation Reconsidered, William Ramsey endorses the structural conception of mental representation, but uses it to develop a novel argument against representationalism, the widespread view that cognition essentially involves (...) the manipulation of mental representations. Ramsey argues that although theories within the ‘classical’ tradition of cognitive science once posited structural representations, these theories are being superseded by newer theories, within the tradition of connectionism and cognitive neuroscience, which rarely if ever appeal to structural representations. Instead, these theories seem to be explaining cognition by invoking so-called ‘receptor representations’, which, Ramsey claims, aren’t genuine representations at all—despite being called representations, these mechanisms function more as triggers or causal relays than as genuine stand-ins for distal systems. I argue that when the notions of structural and receptor representation are properly explicated, there turns out to be no distinction between them. There only appears to be a distinction between receptor and structural representations because the latter are tacitly conflated with the ‘mental models’ ostensibly involved in offline cognitive processes such as episodic memory and mental imagery. While structural representations might count as genuine representations, they aren’t distinctively mental representations, for they can be found in all sorts of non-intentional systems such as plants. Thus to explain the kinds of offline cognitive capacities that have motivated talk of mental models, we must develop richer conceptions of mental representation than those provided by the notions of structural and receptor representation. (shrink)
Descartes’ accounts of sensory perception have long troubled his interpreters, for their lack of clear and explicit statements on some fundamental issues. His readers have wondered whether he allows spatial sensory ideas (spatial qualia); whether sensory ideas such as color or pain are representations and, if so, what they represent; and what cognitive value Descartes attributed to sense perception. Recent discussions take differing stands on the questions just mentioned, and also disagree over Descartes’ account of the externalization of sensory qualities, (...) on the origin and correct analysis of the “material falsity” he attributes to some sensory ideas, and on the value of the “teachings of nature.” Such disagreement should not be surprising, for although sensory perception was an important topic for Descartes, his treatment of these particular issues is not systematic – or at least not apparently so. Generally, there are no proof texts that unequivocally settle questions about Descartes’ views on spatial qualia, the representationality of sensory ideas, their cognitive value, externalization, material falsity, and the status of the teachings of nature. Yet these questions and topics naturally arise from matters about which Descartes is explicit and (reasonably) consistent, regarding the role of the senses in philosophy and everyday life and concerning the nature of minds and ideas. It is, therefore, worthwhile to ask what his positions might have been. This chapter develops answers by considering Descartes’ systematic doctrines on the nature of the mind and its ideas and by combing his statements on sensation and perception for hints about how to apply such principles. The first section reviews some key texts. Succeeding sections develop positions on representationality, cognitive value, externalization, material falsity, and the teachings of nature. Ultimately, I favor an interpretation in which, for Descartes, all sensory ideas represent by resemblance, different kinds of sensory ideas vary in cognitive value, externalization arises through spatial localization, and, with sensory ideas of color and the like, as materially false they do not intrinsically misrepresent but afford occasion for false judgments, which arise as merely apparent, and so not actually legitimate, teachings of nature. (shrink)
In their constructive reviews, Frances Egan, Randy Gallistel and Steven Gross have raised some important problems for the account of content advanced by Nicholas Shea in Representation in Cognitive Science. Here the author addresses their main challenges. Egan argues that the account includes an unrecognised pragmatic element; and that it makes contents explanatorily otiose. Gallistel raises questions about homomorphism and correlational information. Gross puts the account to work to resolve a dispute about probabilistic contents in perception, but argues that (...) a question remains about whether probabilities are found in the content or instead in the manner of representation. (shrink)
In Origins of Objectivity, Burge presents three arguments against what he calls ‘deflationism’: the project of explaining the representational function in terms of the notion of biological function. I evaluate these arguments and argue that they are not convincing.
The capacity for representing and reasoning over sets of possibilities, or modal cognition, supports diverse kinds of high-level judgments: causal reasoning, moral judgment, language comprehension, and more. Prior research on modal cognition asks how humans explicitly and deliberatively reason about what is possible but has not investigated whether or how people have a default, implicit representation of which events are possible. We present three studies that characterize the role of implicit representations of possibility in cognition. Collectively, these studies differentiate (...) explicit reasoning about possibilities from default implicit representations, demonstrate that human adults often default to treating immoral and irrational events as impossible, and provide a case study of high-level cognitive judgments relying on default implicit representations of possibility rather than explicit deliberation. (shrink)
In this article, network science is discussed from a methodological perspective, and two central theses are defended. The first is that network science exploits the very properties that make a system complex. Rather than using idealization techniques to strip those properties away, as is standard practice in other areas of science, network science brings them to the fore, and uses them to furnish new forms of explanation. The second thesis is that network representations are particularly helpful in explaining the properties (...) of non-decomposable systems. Where part-whole decomposition is not possible, network science provides a much-needed alternative method of compressing information about the behavior of complex systems, and does so without succumbing to problems associated with combinatorial explosion. The article concludes with a comparison between the uses of network representation analyzed in the main discussion, and an entirely distinct use of network representation that has recently been discussed in connection with mechanistic modeling. (shrink)
The notion of a "mental representation" is, arguably, in the first instance a theoretical construct of cognitive science. As such, it is a basic concept of the Computational Theory of Mind, according to which cognitive states and processes are constituted by the occurrence, transformation and storage (in the mind/brain) of information-bearing structures (representations) of one kind or another.
An early, very preliminary edition of this book was circulated in 1962 under the title Set-theoretical Structures in Science. There are many reasons for maintaining that such structures play a role in the philosophy of science. Perhaps the best is that they provide the right setting for investigating problems of representation and invariance in any systematic part of science, past or present. Examples are easy to cite. Sophisticated analysis of the nature of representation in perception is to be (...) found already in Plato and Aristotle. One of the great intellectual triumphs of the nineteenth century was the mechanical explanation of such familiar concepts as temperature and pressure by their representation in terms of the motion of particles. A more disturbing change of viewpoint was the realization at the beginning of the twentieth century that the separate invariant properties of space and time must be replaced by the space-time invariants of Einstein's special relativity. Another example, the focus of the longest chapter in this book, is controversy extending over several centuries on the proper representation of probability. The six major positions on this question are critically examined. Topics covered in other chapters include an unusually detailed treatment of theoretical and experimental work on visual space, the two senses of invariance represented by weak and strong reversibility of causal processes, and the representation of hidden variables in quantum mechanics. The final chapter concentrates on different kinds of representations of language, concluding with some empirical results on brain-wave representations of words and sentences. (shrink)
Since its introduction, multivariate pattern analysis, or ‘neural decoding’, has transformed the field of cognitive neuroscience. Underlying its influence is a crucial inference, which we call the decoder’s dictum: if information can be decoded from patterns of neural activity, then this provides strong evidence about what information those patterns represent. Although the dictum is a widely held and well-motivated principle in decoding research, it has received scant philosophical attention. We critically evaluate the dictum, arguing that it is false: decodability is (...) a poor guide for revealing the content of neural representations. However, we also suggest how the dictum can be improved on, in order to better justify inferences about neural representation using MVPA. 1Introduction 2A Brief Primer on Neural Decoding: Methods, Application, and Interpretation 2.1What is multivariate pattern analysis? 2.2The informational benefits of multivariate pattern analysis 3Why the Decoder’s Dictum Is False 3.1We don’t know what information is decoded 3.2The theoretical basis for the dictum 3.3Undermining the theoretical basis 4Objections and Replies 4.1Does anyone really believe the dictum? 4.2Good decoding is not enough 4.3Predicting behaviour is not enough 5Moving beyond the Dictum 6Conclusion. (shrink)
This dissertation argues that mental representation is identical to phenomenal consciousness, and everything else that appears to be both mental and a matter of representation is not genuine mental representation, but either in some way derived from mental representation, or a case of non-mental representation.
Philosophers often hold that the aim of conceptual analysis is to discover the representational content of a given concept such as freewill, belief, or law. In From Metaphysics to Ethics and other recent work, Frank Jackson has developed a theory of conceptual analysis that is one of the most advanced systematizations of this widespread idea. I argue that this influential way of characterizing conceptual analysis is too narrow. I argue that it is possible that an expressivist account could turn out (...) to be correct as a genuine conceptual analysis of a genuine concept. I claim that since an expressivist analysis does not aim to discover the representational content of a given concept—and, indeed, might itself be based on the idea that the concept in question is not even representational in nature—the possibility of expressivist conceptual analysis shows that Jackson’s theory of conceptual analysis is incomplete as it currently stands. I conclude that Jackson needs to either shift his basic understanding of the nature of conceptual analysis or commit to a particular normative reinterpretation of his project. (shrink)
Consciousness and intentionality are perhaps the two central phenomena in the philosophy of mind. Human beings are conscious beings: there is something it is like to be us. Human beings are intentional beings: we represent what is going on in the world.Correspondingly, our specific mental states, such as perceptions and thoughts, very often have a phenomenal character: there is something it is like to be in them. And these mental states very often have intentional content: they serve to represent the (...) world. On the face of it, consciousness and intentionality are intimately connected. Our most important conscious mental states are intentional states: conscious experiences often inform us about the state of the world. And our most important intentional mental states are conscious states: there is often something it is like to represent the external world. It is natural to think that a satisfactory account of consciousness must respect its intentional structure, and that a satisfactory account of intentionality must respect its phenomenological character.With this in mind, it is surprising that in the last few decades, the philosophical study of consciousness and intentionality has often proceeded in two independent streams. This wasnot always the case. In the work of philosophers from Descartes and Locke to Brentano and Husserl, consciousness and intentionality were typically analyzed in a single package. But in the second half of the twentieth century, the dominant tendency was to concentrate on onetopic or the other, and to offer quite separate analyses of the two. On this approach, the connections between consciousness and intentionality receded into the background.In the last few years, this has begun to change. The interface between consciousness and intentionality has received increasing attention on a number of fronts. This attention has focused on such topics as the representational content of perceptual experience, the higherorder representation of conscious states, and the phenomenology of thinking. Two distinct philosophical groups have begun to emerge. One group focuses on ways in which consciousness might be grounded in intentionality. The other group focuses on ways in which intentionality might be grounded in consciousness. (shrink)
Since its introduction, multivariate pattern analysis, or ‘neural decoding’, has transformed the field of cognitive neuroscience. Underlying its influence is a crucial inference, which we call the decoder’s dictum: if information can be decoded from patterns of neural activity, then this provides strong evidence about what information those patterns represent. Although the dictum is a widely held and well-motivated principle in decoding research, it has received scant philosophical attention. We critically evaluate the dictum, arguing that it is false: decodability is (...) a poor guide for revealing the content of neural representations. However, we also suggest how the dictum can be improved on, in order to better justify inferences about neural representation using MVPA. (shrink)
This paper engages critically with anti-representationalist arguments pressed by prominent enactivists and their allies. The arguments in question are meant to show that the “as-such” and “job-description” problems constitute insurmountable challenges to causal-informational theories of mental content. In response to these challenges, a positive account of what makes a physical or computational structure a mental representation is proposed; the positive account is inspired partly by Dretske’s views about content and partly by the role of mental representations in contemporary cognitive (...) scientific modeling. (shrink)
In this book Han Thomas Adriaenssen offers the first comparative exploration of the sceptical reception of representationalism in medieval and early modern philosophy. Descartes is traditionally credited with inaugurating a new kind of scepticism by saying that the direct objects of perception are images in the mind, not external objects, but Adriaenssen shows that as early as the thirteenth century, critics had already found similar problems in Aquinas's theory of representation. He charts the attempts of philosophers in both periods (...) to grapple with these problems, and shows how in order to address the challenges of scepticism and representation, modern philosophers in the wake of Descartes often breathed new life into old ideas, remoulding them in ways that we are just beginning to understand. His book will be valuable for historians interested in the medieval background to early modern thought, and to medievalists looking at continuity with the early modern period. -/- . (shrink)
Scientific representation is a currently booming topic, both in analytical philosophy and in history and philosophy of science. The analytical inquiry attempts to come to terms with the relation between theory and world; while historians and philosophers of science aim to develop an account of the practice of model building in the sciences. This article provides a review of recent work within both traditions, and ultimately argues for a practice-based account of the means employed by scientists to effectively achieve (...)representation in the modelling sciences. (shrink)
How can we distinguish between quasi-realist expressivism and normative realism? The most promising answer to this question is the “explanation” explanation proposed by Dreier (2004), Simpson (2018), and others: the two views might agree in their claims about truth and objectivity, or even in their attributions of semantic content to normative sentences, but they disagree about how to explain normative meaning. Realists explain meaning by invoking normative facts and properties, or representational relations between normative language and the world, the thought (...) goes, while expressivists appeal instead to desire-like mental states in their explanations of meaning. However, I argue that, if we adopt a deflationary approach to representation and other related notions, there need be no such explanatory divide between expressivism and anything recognizable as a plausible notion of normative realism. Any alleged explanatory criterion for realism will either be incompatible with deflationism, or it will fail to capture some standard versions of normative realism. I conclude that, in a deflationary framework, expressivism is compatible with genuine realism. (shrink)
What can we learn about the existence of non-physical entities from close inquiry into special kinds of experiences? Contemporary analytic philosophy has sometimes studied mystic experiences as evidence for the existence of such entities. The article is organized as follows: first, I discuss several distinctions that seem to me to play substantive roles in philosophizing about such experiences. I will then offer and criticize two arguments that support the significance of the experiences. The arguments do not show whether a non-physical (...) entity does or does not exist; they highlight a philosophical framework that can be beneficial to a variety of different approaches. Based on a heuristic strategy, the arguments will focus on the possibility/impossibility of objective representation of non-physical entities. They invite the reader to reflect on deeper philosophical grounds necessary for evaluating any positive or negative claims about the significance/insignificance of such experiences. The first argument rests on contemporary theories and assumptions. The second argument will use notions that drive from Classic Arabic-Persian Philosophy. (shrink)
Scientific representation is a booming field nowadays within the philosophy of science, with many papers published regularly on the topic every year, and several yearly conferences and workshops held on related topics. Historically, the topic originates in two different strands in 20th-century philosophy of science. One strand begins in the 1950s, with philosophical interest in the nature of scientific theories. As the received or “syntactic” view gave way to a “semantic” or “structural” conception, representation progressively gained the center (...) stage. Yet, there is another, older, strand that links representation to fin de siècle modeling debates, particularly in the emerging Bildtheorie of Boltzmann and Hertz, and to the ensuing discussion among philosophers thereafter. Both strands feed into present-day philosophical work on scientific representation. There are a number of different orthogonal questions that philosophers ask regarding representation. One set of questions concerns the nature of the representational relation between theories or models, on the one hand, and the real-world systems they purportedly represent. Such questions lie at the more metaphysical and abstract end of the spectrum—and they are often addressed with the abstract tools of the analytical metaphysician. They constitute what we may refer to as the “analytical inquiry” into representation. On the other hand there are questions regarding the use that scientists put some representations to in practice—these are questions that are best addressed by means of some of the favorite tools of the philosopher of science, including descriptive analysis, illustration by means of case studies, induction, exemplification, inference from practice, etc., and are best referred to as the “practical inquiry” into representation. The notion of representation invoked in such inquiries may be “deflationary” or “substantive”—depending on whether it construes representation as a primitive notion, or as susceptible to further reduction or analysis in terms of something else. (shrink)
The "teleosemantic" program is part of the attempt to give a naturalistic explanation of the semantic properties of mental representations. The aim is to show how the internal states of a wholly physical agent could, as a matter of objective fact, represent the world beyond them. The most popular approach to solving this problem has been to use concepts of physical correlation with some kinship to those employed in information theory (Dretske 1981, 1988; Fodor 1987, 1990). Teleosemantics, which tries to (...) solve the problem using a concept of biological function, arrived in the mid 1980s with ground-breaking works by Millikan (1984) and Papineau (1984, 1987).<sup>1</sup>. (shrink)
Recent theoretical work has identified a tightly-constrained sense in which genes carry representational content. Representational properties of the genome are founded in the transmission of DNA over phylogenetic time and its role in natural selection. However, genetic representation is not just relevant to questions of selection and evolution. This paper goes beyond existing treatments and argues for the heterodox view that information generated by a process of selection over phylogenetic time can be read in ontogenetic time, in the course (...) of individual development. Recent results in evolutionary biology, drawn both from modelling work, and from experimental and observational data, support a role for genetic representation in explaining individual ontogeny: both genetic representations and environmental information are read by the mechanisms of development, in an individual, so as to lead to adaptive phenotypes. Furthermore, in some cases there appears to have been selection between individuals that rely to different degrees on the two sources of information. Thus, the theory of representation in inheritance systems like the genome is much more than just a coherent reconstruction of information talk in biology. Genetic representation is a property with considerable explanatory utility. (shrink)