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)
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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
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)
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)
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)
The notion of scientific representation plays a central role in current debates on modeling in the sciences. One or maybe the major epistemic virtue of successful models is their capacity to adequately represent specific phenomena or target systems. According to similarity views of scientific representation, models should be similar to their corresponding targets in order to represent them. In this paper, Suárez’s arguments against similarity views of representation will be scrutinized. The upshot is that the intuition that (...) scientific representation involves similarity is not refuted by the arguments. The arguments do not make the case for the strong claim that similarity between vehicles and targets is neither necessary nor sufficient for scientific representation. Especially, one claim that a similarity view wants to uphold, still, is the following thesis: only if a vehicle is similar to a target in relevant respects and to a specific degree of similarity then the vehicle is a scientific representation of that target. (shrink)
According to a standard representationalist view cognitive capacities depend on internal content-carrying states. Recent alternatives to this view have been met with the reaction that they have, at best, limited scope, because a large range of cognitive phenomena—those involving absent and abstract features—require representational explanations. Here we challenge the idea that the consideration of cognition regarding the absent and the abstract can move the debate about representationalism along. Whether or not cognition involving the absent and the abstract requires the positing (...) of representations depends upon whether more basic forms of cognition require the positing of representations. (shrink)
Spatial Representation presents original, specially written essays by leading psychologists and philosophers on a fascinating set of topics at the intersection of these two disciplines. They address such questions as these: Do the extraordinary navigational abilities of birds mean that these birds have the same kind of grip on the idea of a spatial world as we do? Is there a difference between the way sighted and blind subjects represent the world 'out there'? Does the study of brain-injured subjects, (...) such as 'blind seers', tell us anything about the working of normal spatial consciousness? -/- The essays are arranged into five sections, each of which reflects a central area of research into spatial cognition, and opens with a short introduction by the editors, designed to facilitate cross-disciplinary reading. The volume as a whole offers a rich and compelling expression of the view that to advance our understanding of the way we represent the external world it is necessary to draw on both philosophical and psychological approaches. (shrink)
Nick Shea’s Representation in Cognitive Science commits him to representations in perceptual processing that are about probabilities. This commentary concerns how to adjudicate between this view and an alternative that locates the probabilities rather in the representational states’ associated “attitudes”. As background and motivation, evidence for probabilistic representations in perceptual processing is adduced, and it is shown how, on either conception, one can address a specific challenge Ned Block has raised to this evidence.
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)
The representation theorems of expected utility theory show that having certain types of preferences is both necessary and sufficient for being representable as having subjective probabilities. However, unless the expected utility framework is simply assumed, such preferences are also consistent with being representable as having degrees of belief that do not obey the laws of probability. This fact shows that being representable as having subjective probabilities is not necessarily the same as having subjective probabilities. Probabilism can be defended on (...) the basis of the representation theorems only if attributions of degrees of belief are understood either antirealistically or purely qualitatively, or if the representation theorems are supplemented by arguments based on other considerations (simplicity, consilience, and so on) that single out the representation of a person as having subjective probabilities as the only true representation of the mental state of any person whose preferences conform to the axioms of expected utility theory. (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)
Advocates of dynamical systems theory (DST) sometimes employ revolutionary rhetoric. In an attempt to clarify how DST models differ from others in cognitive science, I focus on two issues raised by DST: the role for representations in mental models and the conception of explanation invoked. Two features of representations are their role in standing-in for features external to the system and their format. DST advocates sometimes claim to have repudiated the need for stand-ins in DST models, but I argue that (...) they are mistaken. Nonetheless, DST does offer new ideas as to the format of representations employed in cognitive systems. With respect to explanation, I argue that some DST models are better seen as conforming to the covering-law conception of explanation than to the mechanistic conception of explanation implicit in most cognitive science research. But even here, I argue, DST models are a valuable complement to more mechanistic cognitive explanations. (shrink)
Representation theorems are often taken to provide the foundations for decision theory. First, they are taken to characterize degrees of belief and utilities. Second, they are taken to justify two fundamental rules of rationality: that we should have probabilistic degrees of belief and that we should act as expected utility maximizers. We argue that representation theorems cannot serve either of these foundational purposes, and that recent attempts to defend the foundational importance of representation theorems are unsuccessful. As (...) a result, we should reject these claims, and lay the foundations of decision theory on firmer ground. (shrink)
In this paper, I develop Mauricio Suárez’s distinction between denotation, epistemic representation, and faithful epistemic representation. I then outline an interpretational account of epistemic representation, according to which a vehicle represents a target for a certain user if and only if the user adopts an interpretation of the vehicle in terms of the target, which would allow them to perform valid (but not necessarily sound) surrogative inferences from the model to the system. The main difference between the (...) interpretational conception I defend here and Suárez’s inferential conception is that the interpretational account is a substantial account—interpretation is not just a “symptom” of representation; it is what makes something an epistemic representation of a something else. (shrink)
It is argued that a number of important, and seemingly disparate, types of representation are species of a single relation, here called structural representation, that can be described in detail and studied in a way that is of considerable philosophical interest. A structural representation depends on the existence of a common structure between a representation and that which it represents, and it is important because it allows us to reason directly about the representation in order (...) to draw conclusions about the phenomenon that it depicts. The present goal is to give a general and precise account of structural representation, then to use that account to illuminate several problems of current philosophical interest — including some that do not initially seem to involve representation at all. In particular, it is argued that ontological reductions (like that of the natural numbers to sets), compositional accounts of semantics, several important sorts of mental representation, and (perhaps) possible worlds semantics for intensional logics are all species of structural representation and are fruitfully studied in the framework developed here. (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)
Representation has been one of the main themes in the recent discussion of models. Several authors have argued for a pragmatic approach to representation that takes users and their interpretations into account. It appears to me, however, that this emphasis on representation places excessive limitations on our view of models and their epistemic value. Models should rather be thought of as epistemic artifacts through which we gain knowledge in diverse ways. Approaching models this way stresses their materiality (...) and media-specificity. Focusing on models as multi-functional artifacts loosens them from any pre-established and fixed representational relationships and leads me to argue for a two-fold approach to representation. (shrink)
The concept of representation has become almost inextricably bound to the concept of symbol systems. the concepts is nowhere more prevalent than in descriptions of "internal representations." These representations are thought to occur in an internal symbol system that allows the brain to store and use information. In this paper we explore a different approach to understanding psychological processes, one that retains a commitment to representations and computations but that is not based on the idea that information must be (...) stored and manipulated in symbol systems. In particular, we suggest that the notion of a symbol system as currently understood construes psychological processes in terms of a specific type of computational system, in which a control function "reads," "interprets," and manipulates discrete entities called "symbols." We argue that other types of computational systems may provide a more appropriate characterization of psychological processes. One implication of our argument is the need to consider the constraints placed on computational theories in psychology by the nature of the computing device itself, the human brain. Perhaps surprisingly, this implication leads us to the conclusion that a "functionalist" conception of psychological processes (discussed below) does not entail that physiology is irrelevant to psychology, as has been maintained by prominent adherents of the symbol-systems approach. (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)
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.
The historical debate on representation in cognitive science and neuroscience construes representations as theoretical posits and discusses the degree to which we have reason to posit them. We reject the premise of that debate. We argue that experimental neuroscientists routinely observe and manipulate neural representations in their laboratory. Therefore, neural representations are as real as neurons, action potentials, or any other well-established entities in our ontology.
Over the last 30 years, representationalist and dynamicist positions in the philosophy of cognitive science have argued over whether neurocognitive processes should be viewed as representational or not. Major scientific and technological developments over the years have furnished both parties with ever more sophisticated conceptual weaponry. In recent years, an enactive generalization of predictive processing – known as active inference – has been proposed as a unifying theory of brain functions. Since then, active inference has fueled both representationalist and dynamicist (...) campaigns. However, we believe that when diving into the formal details of active inference, one should be able to find a solution to the war; if not a peace treaty, surely an armistice of a sort. Based on an analysis of these formal details, this paper shows how both representationalist and dynamicist sensibilities can peacefully coexist within the new territory of active inference. (shrink)
It is now part and parcel of the official philosophical wisdom that models are essential to the acquisition and organisation of scientific knowledge. It is also generally accepted that most models represent their target systems in one way or another. But what does it mean for a model to represent its target system? I begin by introducing three conundrums that a theory of scientific representation has to come to terms with and then address the question of whether the semantic (...) view of theories, which is the currently most widely accepted account of theories and models, provides us with adequate answers to these questions. After having argued in some detail that it does not, I conclude by pointing out in what direction a tenable account of scientific representation might be sought. (shrink)
Structural representations are increasingly popular in philosophy of cognitive science. A key virtue they seemingly boast is that of meeting Ramsey's job description challenge. For this reason, structural representations appear tailored to play a clear representational role within cognitive architectures. Here, however, I claim that structural representations do not meet the job description challenge. This is because even our most demanding account of their functional profile is satisfied by at least some receptors, which paradigmatically fail the job description challenge. Hence, (...) the functional profile typically associated with structural representations does not identify representational posits. After a brief introduction, I present, in the second section of the paper, the job description challenge. I clarify why receptors fail to meet it and highlight why, as a result, they should not be considered representations. In the third section I introduce what I take to be the most demanding account of structural representations at our disposal, namely Gładziejewski's account. Provided the necessary background, I turn from exposition to criticism. In the first half of the fourth section, I equate the functional profile of structural representations and receptors. To do so, I show that some receptors boast, as a matter of fact, all the functional features associated with structural representations. Since receptors function merely as causal mediators, I conclude structural representations are mere causal mediators too. In the second half of the fourth section I make this conclusion intuitive with a toy example. I then conclude the paper, anticipating some objections my argument invites. (shrink)
This paper defends the deflationary character of two recent views regarding scientific representation, namely RIG Hughes’ DDI model and the inferential conception. It is first argued that these views’ deflationism is akin to the homonymous position in discussions regarding the nature of truth. There, we are invited to consider the platitudes that the predicate “true” obeys at the level of practice, disregarding any deeper, or more substantive, account of its nature. More generally, for any concept X, a deflationary approach (...) is then defined in opposition to a substantive approach, where a substantive approach to X is an analysis of X in terms of some property P, or relation R, accounting for and explaining the standard use of X. It then becomes possible to characterize a deflationary view of scientific representation in three distinct senses, namely: a “no-theory” view, a “minimalist” view, and a “use-based” view – in line with three standard deflationary responses in the philosophical literature on truth. It is then argued that both the DDI model and the inferential conception may be suitably understood in any of these three different senses. The application of these deflationary ‘hermeneutics’ moreover yields significant improvements on the DDI model, which bring it closer to the inferential conception. It is finally argued that what these approaches have in common – the key to any deflationary account of scientific representation – is the denial that scientific representation may be ultimately reduced to any substantive explanatory property of sources, or targets, or their relations. (shrink)
Arguably the most foundational principle in perception research is that our experience of the world goes beyond the retinal image; we perceive the distal environment itself, not the proximal stimulation it causes. Shape may be the paradigm case of such “unconscious inference”: When a coin is rotated in depth, we infer the circular object it truly is, discarding the perspectival ellipse projected on our eyes. But is this really the fate of such perspectival shapes? Or does a tilted coin retain (...) an elliptical appearance even when we know it’s circular? This question has generated heated debate from Locke and Hume to the present; but whereas extant arguments rely primarily on introspection, this problem is also open to empirical test. If tilted coins bear a representational similarity to elliptical objects, then a circular coin should, when rotated, impair search for a distal ellipse. Here, nine experiments demonstrate that this is so, suggesting that perspectival shapes persist in the mind far longer than traditionally assumed. Subjects saw search arrays of three-dimensional “coins,” and simply had to locate a distally elliptical coin. Surprisingly, rotated circular coins slowed search for elliptical targets, even when subjects clearly knew the rotated coins were circular. This pattern arose with static and dynamic cues, couldn’t be explained by strategic responding or unfamiliarity, generalized across shape classes, and occurred even with sustained viewing. Finally, these effects extended beyond artificial displays to real-world objects viewed in naturalistic, full-cue conditions. We conclude that objects have a remarkably persistent dual character: their objective shape “out there,” and their perspectival shape “from here.”. (shrink)
Science provides us with representations of atoms, elementary particles, polymers, populations, genetic trees, economies, rational decisions, aeroplanes, earthquakes, forest fires, irrigation systems, and the world’s climate. It's through these representations that we learn about the world. This entry explores various different accounts of scientific representation, with a particular focus on how scientific models represent their target systems. As philosophers of science are increasingly acknowledging the importance, if not the primacy, of scientific models as representational units of science, it's important (...) to stress that how they represent plays a fundamental role in how we are to answer other questions in the philosophy of science. This entry begins by disentangling ‘the’ problem of scientific representation, before critically evaluating the current options available in the literature. (shrink)
Colombo (Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 2012) argues that we have compelling reasons to posit neural representations because doing so yields unique explanatory purchase in central cases of social norm compliance. We aim to show that there is no positive substance to Colombo’s plea—nothing that ought to move us to endorse representationalism in this domain, on any level. We point out that exposing the vices of the phenomenological arguments against representationalism does not, on its own, advance the case for representationalism (...) one inch—beyond establishing its mere possibility. We criticize the continual confounding of constitutive and explanatory claims and the lack of recognition of a Hard Problem of having to provide a naturalistic account of content, coupled with an inability to face up to it. We point at the inadequacy of various deflationary moves that end up driving representationalists towards the idea of neural representations with non-standard contents or without content altogether, both of which either render neural representationalism unfit for purpose or vacuous. Referring to possibilities for neural manipulation and control, or to established scientific practice does not help representationalism either. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that, to make intentional actions fully intelligible, we need to posit representations of action the content of which is nonconceptual. I further argue that an analysis of the properties of these nonconceptual representations, and of their relation- ships to action representations at higher levels, sheds light on the limits of intentional control. On the one hand, the capacity to form nonconceptual representations of goal-directed movements underscores the capacity to acquire executable concepts of these movements, thus (...) allowing them to come under intentional control. On the other hand, the degree of autonomy these nonconceptual representations enjoy, and the specific temporal constraints stemming from their role in motor control, set limits on intentional control over action execution. (shrink)
Visual representations (photographs, diagrams, etc.) play crucial roles in scientific processes. They help, for example, to communicate research results and hypotheses to scientific peers as well as to the lay audience. In genuine research activities they are used as evidence or as surrogates for research objects which are otherwise cognitively inaccessible. Despite their important functional roles in scientific practices, philosophers of science have more or less neglected visual representations in their analyses of epistemic methods and tools of reasoning in science. (...) This book is meant to fill this gap. It presents a detailed investigation into central conceptual issues and into the epistemology of visual representations in science. (shrink)
In this wide-ranging book the author presents his critique of the contemporary portrayal of cognition, an analysis of the conceptual foundations of cognitive science and a proposal for a new concept of the mind. Shanon argues that the representational account is seriously lacking and that far from serving as a basis of cognitive activity, representations are the products of such activity. He proposes an alternative view of the mind in which the basic capability of the cognitive system is not the (...) manipulation of symbols but rather action in the world. His book offers a different outlook on the phenomenon of consciousness and presents a new conception of psychological theory and explanation. This revised second edition includes a new Postscript. (shrink)
In this paper, I take scientific models to be epistemic representations of their target systems. I define an epistemic representation to be a tool for gaining information about its target system and argue that a vehicle’s capacity to provide specific information about its target system—its informativeness—is an essential feature of this kind of representation. I draw an analogy to our ordinary notion of interpretation to show that a user’s aim of faithfully representing the target system is necessary for (...) securing this feature. (shrink)
The standard representation theorem for expected utility theory tells us that if a subject’s preferences conform to certain axioms, then she can be represented as maximising her expected utility given a particular set of credences and utilities—and, moreover, that having those credences and utilities is the only way that she could be maximising her expected utility. However, the kinds of agents these theorems seem apt to tell us anything about are highly idealised, being always probabilistically coherent with infinitely precise (...) degrees of belief and full knowledge of all a priori truths. Ordinary subjects do not look very rational when compared to the kinds of agents usually talked about in decision theory. In this paper, I will develop an expected utility representation theorem aimed at the representation of those who are neither probabilistically coherent, logically omniscient, nor expected utility maximisers across the board—that is, agents who are frequently irrational. The agents in question may be deductively fallible, have incoherent credences, limited representational capacities, and fail to maximise expected utility for all but a limited class of gambles. (shrink)
Evidence from functional neuroimaging of the human brain indicates that information about salient properties of an object¿such as what it looks like, how it moves, and how it is used¿is stored in sensory and motor systems active when that information was acquired. As a result, object concepts belonging to different categories like animals and tools are represented in partially distinct, sensory- and motor property-based neural networks. This suggests that object concepts are not explicitly represented, but rather emerge from weighted activity (...) within property-based brain regions. However, some property-based regions seem to show a categorical organization, thus providing evidence consistent with category-based, domain-specific formulations as well.Acronyms and DefinitionsBiological motion: motion of animate agents characterized by highly flexible, fully articulated motion vectors, in contrast to the rigid, unarticulated motion vectors associated with most tools.Category-specific disorder: a relatively greater impairment in retrieving information about members of one superordinate object category (e.g., animals) as compared with other categories following brain injury or diseaseIPS: intraparietal sulcusLO: lateral occipital cortexObject concept: memory representations of a class or category of objects. Necessary for numerous cognitive functions including identifying an object as a member of a specific category and drawing inferences about object propertiespMTG: posterior middle temporal gyruspSTS: posterior superior temporal sulcusRepetition suppression: decreased neural response associated with repeated presentation of an identical, or a semantically/conceptually related, stimulusSD: semantic dementiaSemantic memory: a large division of long-term memory containing knowledge about the world including facts, ideas, beliefs, and conceptsSemantic priming: a short-lasting facilitation in processing a stimulus due to the prior presentation of a semantically related stimulusTMS: transcranial magnetic stimulationVPMC: ventral premotor cortex. (shrink)
Intelligent systems are faced with the problem of securing a principled (ideally, veridical) relationship between the world and its internal representation. I propose a unified approach to visual representation, addressing both the needs of superordinate and basic-level categorization and of identification of specific instances of familiar categories. According to the proposed theory, a shape is represented by its similarity to a number of reference shapes, measured in a high-dimensional space of elementary features. This amounts to embedding the stimulus (...) in a low-dimensional proximal shape space. That space turns out to support representation of distal shape similarities which is veridical in the sense of Shepard's (1968) notion of second-order isomorphism (i.e., correspondence between distal and proximal similarities among shapes, rather than between distal shapes and their proximal representations). Furthermore, a general expression for similarity between two stimuli, based on comparisons to reference shapes, can be used to derive models of perceived similarity ranging from continuous, symmetric, and hierarchical, as in the multidimensional scaling models (Shepard, 1980), to discrete and non-hierarchical, as in the general contrast models (Tversky, 1977; Shepard and Arabie, 1979). (shrink)
In Representation Reconsidered , William Ramsey suggests that the notion of structural representation is posited by classical theories of cognition, but not by the ‘newer accounts’ (e.g. connectionist modeling). I challenge the assertion about the newer accounts. I argue that the newer accounts also posit structural representations; in fact, the notion plays a key theoretical role in the current computational approaches in cognitive neuroscience. The argument rests on a close examination of computational work on the oculomotor system.