It is a live possibility that certain of our experiences reliably misrepresent the world around us. I argue that tracking theories of mentalrepresentation have difficulty allowing for this possibility, and that this is a major consideration against them.
This dissertation argues that mentalrepresentation is identical to phenomenal consciousness, and everything else that appears to be both mental and a matter of representation is not genuine mentalrepresentation, but either in some way derived from mentalrepresentation, or a case of non-mentalrepresentation.
The main thesis of this paper is twofold. In the first half of the paper, (§§1-2), I argue that there are two notions of mentalrepresentation, which I call objective and subjective. In the second part (§§3-7), I argue that this casts familiar tracking theories of mentalrepresentation as incomplete: while it is clear how they might account for objective representation, they at least require supplementation to account for subjective representation.
Embedded and embodied approaches to cognition urge that (1) complicated internal representations may be avoided by letting features of the environment drive behavior, and (2) environmental structures can play an enabling role in cognition, allowing prior cognitive processes to solve novel tasks. Such approaches are thus in a natural position to oppose the ‘thesis of linguistic structuring’: The claim that the ability to use language results in a wholesale recapitulation of linguistic structure in onboard mentalrepresentation. Prominent examples (...) of researchers adopting this critical stance include Andy Clark, Michael Wheeler, and Mark Rowlands. But is such opposition warranted? Since each of these authors advocate accounts of mentalrepresentation that are broadly connectionist, I survey research on formal language computation in artificial neural networks, and argue that results indicate a strong form of the linguistic structuring thesis is true: Internal representational systems recapitulate significant linguistic structure, even on a connectionist account of mentalrepresentation. I conclude by sketching how my conclusion can nonetheless be viewed as consistent with and complimentary to an embedded/embodied account of the role of linguistic structure in cognition. (shrink)
To the memory of Alan White The idea of mentalrepresentation occupies a rather prominent place in much contemporary discussion, both in philosophy and cognitive science, and not as a particularly controversial idea either. My reflections here, however, are intended to douse much of that discussion with some cold water. I should emphasize at the outset that I have no problems at all with the very idea of mentalrepresentation. What I find quite unsatisfactory is the (...) philosophical or doctrinal underpinning of much current theorising about it. Anyway, I shall suggest that talk of mentalrepresentation needs at least to be supplemented with, if not actually replaced by, a distinct notion of mental presentation , which cannot be reduced to it. But I start with the notion of an impression. (shrink)
Five leading figures in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science debate the central topic of mentalrepresentation. Each author's contribution is specially written for this volume, and then collectively discussed by the others. The editor frames the discussions and provides a way into the debates for new readers. An exciting feature of this collection is the transcribed discussion among all the contributors following each exchange. This is the latest thinking on mentalrepresentation carefully and critically (...) analysed by the leading thinkers in the field. (shrink)
A critique of the view of "cognitive liberalism," as articulated in recent papers by Dan Lloyd , is presented. The main arguments are directed at Lloyd's claim that representational capacities may be found in organisms as simple as marine mollusks and at his formal analysis of cognitive representation as a type of information-bearing conditional dependency. An alternative interpretation-based view of cognitive representation is then briefly sketched.
The paper articulates a puzzle that consists in the prima facie incompatibility between three widely accepted theses. The first thesis is, roughly, that there are intrinsically selfrepresentational thoughts. The second thesis is, roughly, that there is a particular causal constraint on mentalrepresentation. The third thesis is, roughly, that nothing causes itself. In this paper, the theses are articulated in a less rough manner with the occurrence of the puzzle as a result. Finally, a number of solution strategies (...) are considered, and a preliminary diagnosis is provided. (shrink)
The neural vehicles of mentalrepresentation play an explanatory role in cognitive psychology that their realizers do not. In this paper, I argue that the individuation of realizers as vehicles of representation restricts the sorts of explanations in which they can participate. I illustrate this with reference to Rupert’s (2011) claim that representational vehicles can play an explanatory role in psychology in virtue of their quantity or proportion. I propose that such quantity-based explanatory claims can apply only (...) to realizers and not to vehicles, in virtue of the particular causal role that vehicles play in psychological explanations. (shrink)
Many have urged that the biggest obstacles to a physicalistic understanding of consciousness are the problems raised in connection with the subjectivity of consciousness. These problems are most acutely expressed in consideration of the knowledge argument against physicalism. I develop a novel account of the subjectivity of consciousness by explicating the ways in which mental representations may be perspectival. Crucial features of my account involve analogies between the representations involved in sensory experience and the ways in which pictorial representations (...) exhibit perspectives or points of view. I argue that the resultant account of subjectivity provides a basis for the strongest response physicalists can give to the knowledge argument. (shrink)
This edition has been fully revised and updated, and includes a new chapter on consciousness and a new section on modularity. There are also guides for further reading, and a new glossary of terms such as mentalese, connectionism, and the homunculus fallacy.
Among the cognitive capacities of evolved creatures is the capacity to represent. Theories in cognitive neuroscience typically explain our manifest representational capacities by positing internal representations, but there is little agreement about how these representations function, especially with the relatively recent proliferation of connectionist, dynamical, embodied, and enactive approaches to cognition. In this talk I sketch an account of the nature and function of representation in cognitive neuroscience that couples a realist construal of representational vehicles with a pragmatic account (...) of mental content. I call the resulting package a deflationary account of mentalrepresentation and I argue that it avoids the problems that afflict competing accounts. (shrink)
The present paper develops a defense for the representational approach to memory which wilcox and Katz believe leads to logical paradoxes. It is suggested that three of the central arguments of Wilcox and Katz make sense when one ascribes to the representational theory a "human-like" model, rather is based. the fourth major argument of Wilcox and Katz, which in the present article had been labelled the "eliminative' argument, has been shown to confuse ontological assuptions with logical considerations.
In a recent paper, Karl Schafer argues that Hume's theory of mentalrepresentation has two distinct components, unified by their shared feature of having accuracy conditions. As Schafer sees it, simple and complex ideas represent the intrinsic imagistic features of their objects whereas abstract ideas represent the relations or structures in which multiple objects stand. This distinction, however, is untenable for at least two related reasons. Firstly, complex ideas represent the relations or structures in which the impressions that (...) are the objects of their simple components stand. Secondly, abstract ideas are themselves instances of complex ideas. I draw two important conclusions from these facts. Firstly, contra Schafer and Garrett, the Copy Principle, properly emended, constitutes the entirety of Hume's theory of mentalrepresentation. Secondly, whereas paradigm examples of complex ideas, e.g. ideas of spatial and temporal complexes, are structured by relations of contiguity, abstract ideas are those complex ideas instead structured by relations of resemblance. As such, they represent their objects not as spatially or temporally contiguous but rather as resembling. (shrink)
This paper discusses the representation and explanation of relationships between phenomena that are important in psychiatric contexts. After a general discussion of complexity in the philosophy of science, I distinguish zooming-out approaches from zooming-in approaches. Zooming-out has to do with seeing complex mental illnesses as abstract models for the purposes of both explanation and reduction. Zooming-in involves breaking complex mental illnesses into simple components and trying to explain those components independently in terms of specific causes. Connections between (...) existing practice and zooming-out are drawn, and zooming-in is criticised. (shrink)
This paper analyzes recent work in psychology on the nature of the representation of complex forms of knowledge with the goal of understanding how theories are represented. The analysis suggests that, as a psychological form of representation, theories are mental structures that include theoretical entities (usually nonobservable), relationships among the theoretical entities, and relationships of the theoretical entities to the phenomena of some domain. A theory explains the phenomena in its domain by providing a conceptual framework for (...) the phenomena that leads to a feeling of understanding in the reader/hearer. The explanatory conceptual framework goes beyond the original phenomena, integrates diverse aspects of the world, and shows how the original phenomena follow from the framework. This analysis is used to argue that mental models are the subclass of theories that use causal/mechanical explanatory frameworks. In addition, an argument is made for a new psychologism in the philosophy of science, in which the mentalrepresentation of scientific theories must be taken into account. (shrink)
The claim that similarity plays a role in representation has been philosophically discredited. Psychologists, however, routinely analyse the success of mental representations for guiding behaviour in terms of a similarity between representation and the world. I provide a foundation for this practice by developing a philosophically responsible account of the relationship between similarity and representation in natural systems. I analyse similarity in terms of the existence of a suitable homomorphism between two structures. The key insight is (...) that by restricting attention to only those homomorphisms induced by causal processes, we can solve two philosophical problems with a single assumption. First, causal structure provides an adequate source for the bias required to ensure the similarity relation is non-trivial; second, it provides an adequate source for the directionality required to move from similarity to representation. I defend this account against objections by Goodman and van Fraassen and demonstrate that it is indeed the account of similarity’s role in representation assumed by psychological practice. (shrink)
This essay explores some of the central aspects of Aquinas's account of mentalrepresentation, focusing in particular on his views about the intentionality of concepts (or intelligible species). It begins by demonstrating the need for a new interpretation of his account, showing in particular that the standard interpretations all face insurmountable textual difficulties. It then develops the needed alternative and explains how it avoids the sorts of problems plaguing the standard interpretations. Finally, it draws out the implications of (...) this interpretation with the aim of correcting some persistent misunderstandings of the connection between Aquinas's views and those developed by contemporary philosophers of mind. (shrink)
Any creature that must move around in its environment to find nutrients and mates, in order to survive and reproduce, faces the problem of sensorimotor control. A solution to this problem requires an on-board control mechanism that can shape the creature’s behaviour so as to render it “appropriate” to the conditions that obtain. There are at least three ways in which such a control mechanism can work, and Nature has exploited them all. The first and most basic way is for (...) a creature to bump into the things in its environment, and then, depending on what has been encountered, seek to modify its behaviour accordingly. Such an approach is risky, however, since some things in the environment are distinctly unfriendly. A second and better way, therefore, is for a creature to exploit ambient forms of energy that carry information about the distal structure of the environment. This is an improvement on the first method since it enables the creature to respond to the surroundings without actually bumping into anything. Nonetheless, this second method also has its limitations, one of which is that the information conveyed by such ambient energy is often impoverished, ambiguous and intermittent. (shrink)
Judea Pearl has argued that counterfactuals and causality are central to intelligence, whether natural or artificial, and has helped create a rich mathematical and computational framework for formally analyzing causality. Here, we draw out connections between these notions and various current issues in cognitive science, including the nature of mental “programs” and mentalrepresentation. We argue that programs (consisting of algorithms and data structures) have a causal (counterfactual-supporting) structure; these counterfactuals can reveal the nature of mental (...) representations. Programs can also provide a causal model of the external world. Such models are, we suggest, ubiquitous in perception, cognition, and language processing. (shrink)
The battle over the proper place of mentalrepresentation in cognitive science is often portrayed as a clash between realism and eliminativism. But this simple dichotomy belies the variety of different ontological positions available. This article investigates the various stances that one can adopt toward the ontology of mentalrepresentation, and in so doing, shows that eliminativism is in fact best understood as two distinct positions: a posteriori eliminativism and a priori eliminativism. Furthermore, I show that (...) a priori eliminativism faces two crippling challenges. I argue that once we put a priori eliminativism aside, determining the ultimate ontological status of representation can be postponed while we assess its utility across different domains of cognitive science—something all remaining positions can agree on. (shrink)
The notion of a "mentalrepresentation" 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 aim of this article is to adapt Peirce’s semiotics to the study of media and arts. While some Peircean notions are criticized and rejected, constructive ways of understanding Peirce’s ideas are suggested, and a number of new notions, which are intended to highlight crucial aspects of semiosis, are then introduced. All these ideas and notions are systematically related to one another within the frames of a consistent terminology. The article starts with an investigation of Peirce’s three sign constituents and (...) their interrelations: the representamen, the object, and the interpretant. A new approach to the interrelations of these three sign constituents is then suggested and manifested in a distinction between representation and neopresentation. This is followed by a critical discussion of Peirce’s three types of representation—iconicity, indexicality, and symbolicity—and their interrelations, which sets the stage for a presentation of what is referred to as the material and mentalrepresentation model. This model aims to illuminate the problematic relation between material and mental facets of signification triggered by media and art products, and other material things and phenomena. (shrink)
One oft the most fascinating abilities of humans is the ability to become conscious of the own physical and mental states. In this systematic investigation of self-consciousness, a representational theory is developed that is able to distinguish between different levels of self-consciousness. The most basic levels are already present in such simple animals as ants. From these basic forms, which are also relevant for adult human self-consciousness, high-level self-consciousness including self-knowledge can arise. Thereby, the theory is not only able (...) to integrate developmental considerations but also to sharply distinguish different aspects of the complex phenomenon self-consciousness. Pathological breakdowns of these different aspects, as they can be found in schizophrenia, are explained by specific impairments on different levels of self-representation. In this way, the work shows that a naturalistic theory of self-consciousness is possible, if the analysis starts with very simple and basic mechanisms instead of starting on the »top of the iceberg«. (shrink)
In his, ‘Descartes' Ontology of Thought’, Alan Nelson presents, on Descartes' behalf, a compositional theory of mentalrepresentation according to which the content of any mentalrepresentation is either simple or is entirely constituted by a combination of innate simples. Here the simples are our ideas of God, thought, extension, and union. My objection will be that it is simply ludicrous to think that any four simples are adequate to the task of combining to constitute all (...) of human thought, and that the simples God, thought, extension, and union are particularly ill suited to it. (shrink)
Here is an overview of what is to come. In Sections I and II, I will sketch two of the projects frequently pursued by moral philosophers, and the methods typically invoked in those projects. I will argue that these projects presuppose (or at least suggest) a particular sort of account of the mentalrepresentation of human value systems, since the methods make sense only if we assume a certain kind of story about how the human mind stores information (...) about values. The burden of my argument in Section III will be that while the jury is still out, there is some evidence suggesting that this account of mentalrepresentation is mistaken. If it is mistaken, it follows that two of the central methods of moral philosophy have to be substantially modified, or perhaps abandoned, and that the goals philosophers have sought to achieve with these methods may themselves be misguided. I fear that many of my philosophical colleagues will find this a quite radical suggestion. But if anything is clear in this area, it is that the methods we will be considering have not been conspicuously successful, though it certainly has not been for want of trying. So perhaps it is time for some radical, empirically informed rethinking of goals and methods in these parts of moral philosophy. (shrink)
The relationship between mentalrepresentation and consciousness is considered. What it means to 'represent', and several types of representation (e.g., analogue, digital, spatial, linguistic, mathematical), are described. Concepts relevant to mentalrepresentation in general (e.g., multiple levels of processing, structure/process differences, mapping) and in specific domains (e.g., mental imagery, linguistic/propositional theories, production systems, connectionism, dynamics) are discussed. Similarities (e.g., using distinctions between different forms of representation to predict different forms of consciousness, parallels between (...) digital architectures of the brain and connectionist models) and dissociations (e.g., insensitivity to gaps in subjective experience, explicit memory/implicit memory, automatic processing/controlled processing, blindsight, neglect, prediction/ explanation) of mentalrepresentation and consciousness are discussed. It is concluded that representational systems are separable from consciousness systems, and that mentalrepresentation appears necessary but not sufficient for consciousness. Considerations for future research on correspondences between representation and consciousness are suggested. (shrink)
On its face, Hume's account of mentalrepresentation involves at least two elements. On the one hand, Hume often seems to write as though the representational properties of an idea are fixed solely by what it is a copy or image of. But, on the other, Hume's treatment of abstract ideas makes it clear that the representational properties of a Humean idea sometimes depend, not just on what it is copied from, but also on the manner in which (...) the mind associates it with other ideas. Past interpretations of Hume have tended to focus on one of these elements of his account to the neglect of the other. But no interpretation of this sort is likely to capture the role that both copying and association play within Hume's discussion. In what follows, I argue that the most plausible way of understanding Hume's discussion involves attributing to him a unified account of mentalrepresentation in which both of these elements play a central role. I close by discussing the manner in which reading Hume in this way would alter our understanding of the relationship between Hume's thought and contemporary philosophy of mind. (shrink)
To a cognitive psychologist discourse comprehension poses a number of interesting problems both in terms of mentalrepresentation and mental operations. In this paper we suggest that certain of these problems can be brought into clear focus by employing a procedural approach to discourse description. In line with this approach a general framework for the mentalrepresentation of discourse is discussed in which distinctions between different types of memory partitions are proposed. It is argued that (...) one needs to distinguish both between focussed representations available in immediate working memory and nonfocussed representations available in long-term memory and also between representations arising from the asserted information in the discourse and those arising from what is presupposed by it. In the second half of the paper a particular problem of anaphoric reference is discussed within the context of this framework. A general memory search procedure is outlined which contains three parameters for determining the search operation. We then attempt to describe certain anaphoric expressions such as personal pronouns and full definite noun phrases in terms of the execution of this search procedure, where distinctions arise from the parameter specification derived from the expressions.The cognitive psychology of discourse is concerned with the nature of the mental processes entailed in understanding what is written or spoken, and the problem of how these processes might be realised in the mind of the understander given the psychological constraints of limited attention and memory which we know to obtain. One very attractive line of attack is to view the many and various aspects of a discourse as having an instructional component, in the sense that the reader or listener is being instructed to assemble representations of the elements of discourse in a particular way. An example of this is to be found in a treatment of topic marking within the topic/comment distinction (Halliday, 1976): topic identification may be hought of as an instruction to implement a procedure in which the topic content is construed as an address in memory to which new (comment) information is to be affixed (e.g. Broadbent, 1973; Haviland & Clark, 1974).While any attempt at producing a process-model for comprehensioninevitably makes use of such a procedural view, it is also sensible to consider a text as having a content, which is more directly interpret-able as a set of statements. In the present paper, we shall first consider the question of text content. This immediately raises the problem of how to treat anaphoric reference, which is one of the key contributors to text cohesion. Finally, we shall attempt to illustrate how the instructional or procedural aspect of discourse interacts with the content aspect by reference to a specific problem of anaphoric reference. (shrink)
Book Information Philosophy of MentalRepresentation. Philosophy of MentalRepresentation Hugh Clapin , ed., Oxford: Clarendon Press , 2002 , xv + 332 , £40 ( cloth ), £18.99 ( paper ) Edited by Hugh Clapin . Oxford: Clarendon Press. Pp. xv + 332. £40.
In this paper I am advocating a structuralist theory of mentalrepresentation. For a structuralist theory of mentalrepresentation to be defended satisfactorily, the naturalistic and causal constraints have to be satisfied first. The more intractable of the two, i.e., the naturalistic constraint, indicates that to account for the mentalrepresentation, we should not invoke “a full-blown interpreting mind”. So, the aim of the paper is to show how the naturalistic and causal constraints could (...) be satisfied. It aims to offer a strategy for grounding the structure of the mental representations in nature. The strategy that I offer is inspired by Marcello Barbieri’s code model of biosemiotics. (shrink)
Mentalrepresentation is a metaphor.Â It has perhaps become so entrenched that it appears to have been frozen, and it is easy to lose sight of its metaphorical character.Â Literally, a representation is a re-presentation, a symbol that stands for something else because that thing canÂ’t be with us.Â I send my parents photos of the grandchildren because e-mail is cheaper than air tickets.Â I consult a map of Adelaide to find the shortest route to the philosophy (...) department because wandering through the streets would take too much time.Â Perhaps in a similar sense I use words in this discussion because the very ideas in my head have no way of being transferred directly to yours.Â It is tempting to think that when you hear them thoughts in your head substitute in further processing for the sounds I produce or for the words they encode.Â But if I am right in what follows, we should resist this temptation. (shrink)
To the memory of Alan White The idea of mentalrepresentation occupies a rather prominent place in much contemporary discussion, both in philosophy and cognitive science, and not as a particularly controversial idea either. My reflections here, however, are intended to douse much of that discussion with some cold water. I should emphasize at the outset that I have no problems at all with the very idea of mentalrepresentation. What I find quite unsatisfactory is the (...) philosophical or doctrinal underpinning of much current theorising about it. Anyway, I shall suggest that talk of mentalrepresentation needs at least to be supplemented with, if not actually replaced by, a distinct notion of mental presentation, which cannot be reduced to it. But I start with the notion of an impression. (shrink)