Article

Connectionism

Kenneth Aizawa

in Philosophy

ISBN: 9780195396577
Published online June 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0153
Connectionism

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“Connectionism” in its most generic sense describes theories that postulate interconnected networks of simple neuron-like information-processing elements (often called “nodes”) with modifiable interconnections (often called “weights”) to explain cognitive processes or their implementation. Although the term was used in the first half of the 20th century to describe theories of the neurobiological implementation of principles of associationism, most recent philosophical work on connectionism has focused on cognitive scientific research in the late 20th century that uses computers to simulate the activities of artificial neural networks. Often this work goes under the rubric of “parallel distributed processing” (PDP). Typically, the neural network simulations consist of presenting a network with data in order to have the network modify the connections between the processing elements in such a way as to enable a network to compute a desired function. Although advocates of connectionism often insist on the “neurobiological inspiration” of their models, this does not always translate into models that are in all respects neurobiologically plausible. In many cases, the models are, in the first instance, developed with an eye to accounting for one or another psychological phenomenon. Advocates of connectionism often advance their models as alternatives to computational models of cognition. Since computational models typically invoke computer programs that manipulate syntactically and semantically combinatorial representations, much of the philosophical discussion of connectionism has focused on questions of representation, the structure of representations, the existence of (explicit) rules for the manipulation of representations, and the nature of computation. Although research on connectionism is an extremely active area of cognitive science, this bibliography is largely, and somewhat artificially, limited to works by philosophers. Those wishing to conduct more serious research on connectionism will have to delve into the connectionist scientific literature.

Article.  6469 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art ; Epistemology ; Feminist Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Metaphysics ; Moral Philosophy ; Non-Western Philosophy ; Philosophy of Language ; Philosophy of Law ; Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic ; Philosophy of Mind ; Philosophy of Religion ; Philosophy of Science ; Social and Political Philosophy

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