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 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.
Talk of ”mental representations” is ubiquitous in the philosophy of mind, psychology, and cognitive science. A slogan common to many different approaches says that representations ”stand in for” the things they represent. This slogan also attaches to most talk of "internal models" in cognitive science. We argue that this slogan is either false or uninformative. We then offer a new slogan that aims to do better. The new slogan ties the role of representations to the cognitive role played by (...) the deliverances of perception. After clarifying the new slogan and warding off some misunderstandings, we discuss how the new slogan still captures the seed of truth in the old, point to some specific misunderstandings that can be avoided, and then suggest some ways that the new slogan is useful in the project of giving a satisfying philosophical theory of representation. (shrink)
This volume is a collection of new and previously published essays focusing on one of the most exciting and actively discussed topics in contemporary philosophy: naturalistic theories of mental content. The volume brings together important papers written by some of the most distinguished theorists working in the field today. Authors contributing to the volume include Jerry Fodor, Rugh Millikan, Fred Dretske, Ned Block, Robert Cummins, and Daniel Dennett.
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)
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)
Over the past 50 years, philosophers and psychologists have perennially argued for the existence of analog mental representations of one type or another. This study critically reviews a number of these arguments as they pertain to three different types of mentalrepresentation: perceptual representations, imagery representations, and numerosity representations. Along the way, careful consideration is given to the meaning of “analog” presupposed by these arguments for analog mentalrepresentation, and to open avenues for future research.
Mentalrepresentation is one of core theoretical constructs within cognitive science and, together with the introduction of the computer as a model for the mind, is responsible for enabling the ‘cognitive turn’ in psychology and associated fields. Conceiving of cognitive processes, such as perception, motor control, and reasoning, as processes that consist in the manipulation of contentful vehicles representing the world has allowed us to refine our explanations of behavior and has led to tremendous empirical advancements. Despite the (...) central role that the concept plays in cognitive science, there is no unanimously accepted characterization of mentalrepresentation. Technological and methodological progress in the cognitive sciences has produced numerous computational models of the brain and mind, many of which have introduced mutually incompatible notions of mentalrepresentation. This proliferation has led some philosophers to question the metaphysical status and explanatory usefulness of the notion. This book contains state-of-the-art chapters on the topic of mentalrepresentation, assembling some of the leading experts in the field and allowing them to engage in meaningful exchanges over some of the most contentious questions. The collection gathers both proponents and critics of the concept of mentalrepresentation, allowing them to engage with topics such as the ontological status of representations, the possibility of formulating a general account of mentalrepresentation which would fit our best explanatory practices, and the possibility of delivering such an account in fully naturalistic terms. (shrink)
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.
Criticisms and rejections of representationalism are increasingly popular in 4E cognitive science, and especially in radical enactivism. But by overfocusing our attention on the debate between radical enactivism and classical representationalism, we might miss the woods for the trees, in at least two respects: first, by neglecting the relevance of other theoretical alternatives about representationalism in cognitive science; and second by not seeing how much REC and classical representationalism are in agreement concerning basic and problematic issues dealing with mental (...) content and intentionality. In order to expand and exemplify these ideas, this paper presents two heterodox positions on intentionality and on the relations between content and representation. Special attention is paid to the way REC is rejecting these positions: I argue that this rejection reveals common assumptions with classical representationalism, but also undermines the coherence of REC’s conception of intentionality. (shrink)
Situation theorists such as John Barwise, John Etchemendy, John Perry and François Recanati have put forward the hypothesis that linguistic representations are situated in the sense that they are true or false only relative to partial situations which are not explicitly represented as such. Following Recanati's lead, I explore this hypothesis with respect to mental representations. First, I introduce the notion of unarticulated constituent, due to John Perry. I suggest that the question of whether there really are such constituents (...) should divide in two issues, one concerning language and the other concerning thought. Then I formulate a dilemma that any friend of cognitive unarticulated constituents must face: alleged unarticulated constituents seem to be either articulated or non-constituents after all. The dilemma is strengthened by the fact that unarticulated constituents cannot be inferentially relevant. In §4, three constraints on entertaining situated representations are spelled out. First, although the situation within which one is immersed is not represented as such, there must be cognitive facts that make immersion possible, and explain why one is implicitly related to a particular situation as opposed to another. Second, the move from a given representation to one which articulates the situation requires the capacity to contrast the latter with others in the same range. Third, I suggest that conceptual representations differ from non-conceptual ones in the permanent possibility of detachment that they allow. I then illustrate how these constraints work in three sorts of cases. In the first, thoughts like It's raining and It's over are implicitly related to their situations via some practical capacity of keeping track of particular places or times. In the second sort of cases, the relevant situations are not given, but stipulated, like in In Constance, it's raining. Cases of the third sort are those in which an unarticulated constituent is relevant to a whole system of representations, for instance the perceptual system. In the last section, I use the notion of ad hoc representation to defend the cognitive application of situation semantics against an important objection. (shrink)
These ten lectures articulate a distinctive vision of the structure and workings of the human mind, drawing from research on embodied cognition as well as from historically more entrenched approaches to the study of human thought. On the author’s view, multifarious materials co-contribute to the production of virtually all forms of human behavior, rendering implausible the idea that human action is best explained by processes taking place in an autonomous mental arena – those in the conscious mind or occurring (...) at the so-called personal level. Rather, human behavior issues from a widely varied, though nevertheless integrated, collection of states and mechanisms, the integrated nature of which is determined by a form of clustering in the components’ contributions to the production of intelligent behavior. This package of resources, the cognitive system, is the human self. Among its elements, the cognitive system includes a vast number of representations, many subsets of which share their content. On the author’s view, redundancy of content itself constitutes an important explanatory quantity; the greater the extent of content-redundancy among representations that co-contribute to the production of an instance of behavior, the more fluid the behavior. In the course of developing and applying these views, the author addresses questions about the content of mental representations, extended cognition, the value of knowledge, and group minds. (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)
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 notion of representation has become ubiquitous throughout cognitive psychology, cognitive neuroscience and the cognitive sciences generally. This paper addresses the status of mental representations as entities that have been posited to explain cognition. I do so by examining similarities between mental representations and sense-data in both their characteristics and key arguments offered for each. I hope to show that more caution in the adoption and use of representations in explaining cognition is warranted. Moreover, by paying attention (...) to problematic notions of representations, a less problematic sense of representation might emerge. (shrink)
This paper investigates how "representation" is actually used in some areas in cognitive neuroscience. It is argued that recent philosophy has largely ignored an important kind of representation that differs in interesting ways from the representations that are standardly recognized in philosophy of mind. This overlooked kind of representation does not represent by having intentional contents; rather members of the kind represent by displaying or instantiating features. The investigation is not simply an ethnographic study of the discourse (...) of neuroscientists. If there are indeed two different kinds of representations, and the non-standard ones are the ones referred to in some areas of cognitive neuroscience, then we will have to give up the idea that appealing to inner representations with intentional contents is the defining distinction between cognitive neuroscience and behaviorist psychology (Montgomery, 1995). Further, if the conclusions of this paper are correct, many general accounts of how neural states represent are either false or theoretically ill-motivated. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to understand the functional role of mental representations and intentionality in skilled actions from a systems related perspective. Therefore, we will evaluate the function of representation and then discuss the cognitive architecture of skilled actions in more depth. We are going to describe the building blocks and levels of the action system that enable us to control movements such as striking the tennis ball at the right time, or grasping tools in manual (...) action. Based on this theoretical understanding the measurement of mental representations and related research results concerning mentalrepresentation in skilled action are presented in an overview. This leads to the question how mental representations develop and change during learning. Finally, to consolidate the functional understanding of mentalrepresentation in skilled action and interaction, we provide examples how to use the measurement of mentalrepresentation in humans to inform technical systems. (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 mentalrepresentation 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)
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)
In her landmark book, Language, Thought, and Other Biological Categories (Millikan1984),1 Ruth Garrett Millikan utilizes the idea of a biological function to solve philosophical problems associated with the phenomena of language, thought, and meaning. Language and thought are activities of biological organisms, according to Millikan, and we should treat them as such when trying to answer related philosophical questions. Of special interest is Millikan’s treatment of intentionality. Here Millikan employs the notion of a biological function to explain what it is (...) for one thing in nature, a bee dance (43), for example, to be about another, in this case, the location of a nectar source. My concern in this paper is to understand whether Millikan’s account of intentionality adequately explains how humans achieve reference, in language or thought, to individuals and groups in their environment. In bringing her theory of intentional content to bear on human activities, Millikan focuses largely on natural language. Thus, in what follows, I begin by laying out the biology-based principles that underlie Millikan’s theory of content, then proceed with an explanation of how the theory is to apply to natural language. As it appears, Millikan’s account of how content is determined for natural language terms and sentences rests on the determinacy of intentional content at the psychological level. This leads me to take a careful look at what Millikan says about the content of mental representations, in hopes of finding a sufficient basis there for the application of Millikan’s theory of content to natural language. Ultimately, I conclude that Millikan’s theory faces a problem of vacuity. If we approach the theory as a theory of intentional content, intended to explain the nature of reference, the theory is lacking in an extremely important respect: Millikan explains how it could be one of the biological functions of a mental or natural language term to refer, without telling us precisely what in the natural order constitutes the reference relation.. (shrink)
Fred Dretske?s (1988) account of the causal role of intentional mental states was widely criticized for missing the target: he explained why a type of intentional state causes the type of bodily motion it does rather than some other type, when what we wanted was an account of how the intentional properties of these states play a causal role in each singular causal relation with a token bodily motion. I argue that the non-reductive metaphysics that Dretske defends for his (...) account of behavior can be extended to the case of intentional states, and that this extension provides a way to show how intentional properties can play the causal role that we wanted explained. (shrink)
According to some views, natural language suffers from underdeterminacy, but thought doesn’t. According to the underdeterminacy claim, sentence types underdetermine the truth-conditions of sentence tokens. In particular, the semantics of a predicate type seems to underdetermine the satisfaction conditions of its tokens. By contrast, mentalrepresentation-types are supposed to determine the truth-conditions of its tokens. In this paper I critically examine these mixed views. First, I argue that the arguments supporting the indispensability of including in one’s theory (...) class='Hi'>mental representations that are free of the underdeterminacy exhibited by natural language are not sound. As a result, the possibility that mentalrepresentation-types are as underdetermined as natural language sentence-types has not been ruled out. Second, I argue that Carston’s ad hoc concept-types are as underdetermined as word-types. I finish by arguing that mental representations are also underdetermined in a second sense—mentalrepresentation-tokens only determine a partial function from possible worlds to truth-values. (shrink)
Various theories of moral cognition posit that moral intuitions can be understood as the output of a computational process performed over structured mental representations of human action. We propose that action plan diagrams—“act trees”—can be a useful tool for theorists to succinctly and clearly present their hypotheses about the information contained in these representations. We then develop a methodology for using a series of linguistic probes to test the theories embodied in the act trees. In Study 1, we validate (...) the method by testing a specific hypothesis (diagrammed by act trees) about how subjects are representing two classic moral dilemmas and finding that the data support the hypothesis. In Studies 2–4, we explore possible explanations for discrete and surprising findings that our hypothesis did not predict. In Study 5, we apply the method to a less well‐studied case and show how new experiments generated by our method can be used to settle debates about how actions are mentally represented. In Study 6, we argue that our method captures the mentalrepresentation of human action better than an alternative approach. A brief conclusion suggests that act trees can be profitably used in various fields interested in complex representations of human action, including law, philosophy, psychology, linguistics, neuroscience, computer science, robotics, and artificial intelligence. (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)
This article engages the considerations of imagination in Kierkegaard and Ricoeur to argue for a moral dimension of the imagination and its objects. Imaginary objects are taken to be mental representations in images and narratives of people or courses of action that are not real in the sense that they are not actual, or have not yet happened. Three claims are made in the article. First, by drawing on the category of possibility, a conceptual distinction is established between imagination (...) and fantasy, I claim that imagination has a moral dimension because it is engaged in considering real-life possibilities. Second, drawing on Kierkegaard and Ricoeur, it is argued that mental representations of selfhood in imagination have a moral dimension because they essentially allow people to understand the development of agency in human selfhood by means of representations of would-be selves and narrative figurations of the self. Third, mental representations of human selves have a moral dimension because they form important points of reference for moral orientations in the field of human praxis. (shrink)
A sentence like every circle is blue might be understood in terms of individuals and their properties or in terms of a relation between groups. Relatedly, theorists can specify the contents of universally quantified sentences in first-order or second-order terms. We offer new evidence that this logical first-order vs. second-order distinction corresponds to a psychologically robust individual vs. group distinction that has behavioral repercussions. Participants were shown displays of dots and asked to evaluate sentences with each, every, or all combined (...) with a predicate. We find that participants are better at estimating how many things the predicate applied to after evaluating sentences in which universal quantification is indicated with every or all, as opposed to each. We argue that every and all are understood in second-order terms that encourage group representation, while each is understood in first-order terms that encourage individual representation. Since the sentences that participants evaluate are truth-conditionally equivalent, our results also bear on questions concerning how meanings are related to truth-conditions. (shrink)
Commonsense psychology and cognitive science both regularly assume the existence of representational states. I propose a naturalistic theory of representation sufficient to meet the pretheoretical constraints of a "folk theory of representation", constraints including the capacities for accuracy and inaccuracy, selectivity of proper objects of representation, perspective, articulation, and "efficacy" or content-determined functionality. The proposed model states that a representing device is a device which changes state when information is received over multiple information channels originating at a (...) single source. The changed state of a representing device is a representation. The unitary information source which would give rise to the information impinging on the representing device, and hence, give rise to the representation, is the content of the representation. The model meets the pretheoretic constraints, and also conforms to available neurobiological data for two invertebrate species. (shrink)