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Type: Thesis
Title: Form and content in mental representation
Author: Simms, Mark Roger
Issue Date: 2004
School/Discipline: School of Humanities
Abstract: It is orthodoxy in contemporary philosophy of cognitive science to hold that the human brain processes information, both about the body in which the brain is located and about the world more generally. The internal states of the brain that encode this information are known as mental representations. Two matters concerning mental representation are interwoven here: the role of representational content in cognition and the format of mental representation. Robert Cummins, among others, argues that content is intrinsic to mental representation, rather than involving matters external to a representation, such as the use to which the representation is put. He also holds that resemblance accounts of representation best make sense of this fact. Thus, according to Cummins, the content of a mental representation is determined by its form. This thesis argues that an account of representation requiring that representations possess resembling structure is unlikely to be correct given (a) the minimal requirements that something must meet in order to count as a mental representation, (b) the tasks required of representation in cognition, such as capturing abstract properties, combining with other representations, and tracking change, and (c) the possibility that content stands in a different relation to form and cognition from the one Cummins has in mind. In criticising Cummins, however, this thesis explores possible implementations of resemblance theories in connectionist representation. It also redraws his map of the psychosemantic field to suggest that classical theories of cognition, which posit concatenative schemes of symbolic representation, share some of the benefits of tying content to orm. Finally, in exploring various notions of the role of form in representation, this thesis also advocates a pluralistic approach to the mental representations implicated in human cognition.
Advisor: O'Brien, Gerard Joseph
Opie, Jonathan Philip
Dissertation Note: Thesis (M.A.)--School of Humanities, 2004.
Keywords: mental representation; knowledge, theory of; cognition
Appears in Collections:Research Theses

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