Non-conceptual psychological explanation : content and computation
It is argued that a notion of non-conceptual content can help provide explanations of phenomena such as the development from infant to adult cognition that have so far eluded intentional explication Chapter 1 introduces the Example from the developmental psychology literature on object permanence in infancy, which serves as a benchmark throughout the thesis. After introducing the notion of a content-based explanation, the chapter argues that a content-based explanation of the Example is required and yet objectual content-based explanations are inadequate. Chapter 2 investigates the notions of structure and conceptuality in detail, and uses the results of this investigation to propose a notion of non-conceptual content as content which is non-General, non-objectual, and individuated with respect to more than its role in judgement. Chapter 3 defends non-conceptual content from McDowell's recent criticism. Chapter 4 argues that conventional "that"-clause specifications of conceptual content will not work for non-conceptual content, and investigates various alternative means of specification, arguing that a successful candidate must employ computational concepts. That requirement, in addition to a general requirement for a naturalization of content ascriptions, motivates chapter 5's defense of the coherency of computational explanations in cognitive science, recently called into question by Putnam and Searle. With computation back on a safe footing, chapter 6 argues that the best computational vehicle to naturalize non-conceptual explanations is a sub-symbolic one. The particular case of a connectionist sub-symbolic system, the Connectionist Navigational Map, is described and used to illustrate the affinities between connectionist representations and non-conceptual content. Chapter 7 continues the use of this expository device, detailing an empirical investigation into the conditions under which the Connectionist Navigational Map can increase the conceptuality of its spatial contents an explanatory approach that requires a notion of non-conceptual content.