Frances Egan

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Cognitive Science

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780195309799
Published online May 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks


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The article gives an overview of several distinct theses demonstrating representationalism in cognitive science. Strong representationalism is the view that representational mental states have a specific form, in particular, that they are functionally characterizable relations to internal representations. The proponents of strong representationalism typically suggest that the system of internal representations constitutes a language with a combinatorial syntax and semantics. Braddon-Mitchell and Jackson argued that mental representations might be more analogous to maps than to sentences. Waskan argued that mental representations are akin to scale models. Fodor and Fodor and Pylyshyn argued that certain pervasive features of thought can only be explained by the hypothesis that thought takes place in a linguistic medium. A physical symbol system (PSS) hypothesis is a version of strong representationalism, the idea that representational mental states are functionally characterizable relations to internal representations. The representational content has a significant role in computational models of cognitive capacities. The internal states and structures posited in computational theories of cognition are distally interpreted in such theories. The distal objects and properties that determine the representational content of the posited internal states and structures serve to type-individuate a computationally characterized mechanism. Strong Representationalism, as exemplified by the PSS hypothesis, construes mental processes as operations on internal representations.

Keywords: representationalism; sentential structure; physical symbol system; representational content; cognitive characterization

Article.  10087 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Mind ; Philosophy of Language

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