Compositionality and Biologically Plausible Models

Terrence Stewart and Chris Eliasmith

in The Oxford Handbook of Compositionality

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780199541072
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

Compositionality and Biologically Plausible Models

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  • Linguistics
  • Cognitive Linguistics
  • Semantics



Cognitive theories have expressed their components using an artificial symbolic language, such as first-order predicate logic, and the atoms in such representations are non-decomposable letter strings. A neural theory merely demonstrates how to implement a classical symbol system using neurons: this is actually an argument against the importance of the neural description. The fact that symbol systems are physically instantiated in neurons becomes a mere implementational detail, since there is a direct way to translate from the symbolic description to the more neurally plausible one. It might then be argued that, while the neural aspects of the theory identify how behavior arises, they are not fundamentally important for understanding that behavior. Classical symbol systems would continue to be seen as the right kinds of description for psychological processes.

Keywords: cognitive theories; artificial symbolic language; neural theory; classical symbol systems; psychological processes

Article.  8643 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Cognitive Linguistics ; Semantics

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