Journal Article

Genic representation: reconciling content and causal complexity

M Wheeler and A Clark

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 50, issue 1, pages 103-135
Published in print March 1999 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online March 1999 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/50.1.103
Genic representation: reconciling content and causal complexity

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Some recent cognitive-scientific research suggests that a considerable amount of intelligent action is generated not by the systematic activity of internal representations, but by complex interactions involving neural, bodily, and environmental factors. Following an analysis of this threat to representational explanation, we pursue an analogy between the role of genes in the production of biological form and the role of neural states in the production of behaviour, in order to develop a notion of genic representation. In both cases an appeal to normal ecological context is used to balance multi-factoral, interactive causal determination against the intuition that certain aspects of the causal nexus play a special role in promoting adaptive success. Certain worries abut this vision help us to get a better grip on the concept of genic representation itself. We end with a puzzle concerning the relation between cognition and representation.

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Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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