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Title: Mind, meaning and mechanism : the role of representation in explanations of cognition
Author: Lee, Jonny
Awarding Body: University of Sussex
Current Institution: University of Sussex
Date of Award: 2019
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Representation remains ubiquitous in scientific explanations of cognition. At the same time, philosophers continue to question what, if anything, representation contributes to cognitive science. Whilst some practically define cognition in terms of operations performed over representations, others take the very concept of subpersonal representation to be incoherent. Despite the longstanding debate, this thesis argues that we now possess the resources needed to provide a satisfactory account of cognitive representation, taking the challenges raised by eliminativists as an opportunity to refine our understanding of its explanatory role. I defend a 'mechanistic approach' that presents representational explanations as a kind of mechanistic explanation. This approach has three main parts which pull together several promising threads in the literature to form an original account. The first part is a mechanistic interpretation of explanations in cognitive science. This interpretation provides insight into the sort of explanans cognitive science offers, and the sort of theoretical entity a cognitive representation might be. The second part is acceptance of the increasingly popular notion of 'structural', 'simulation' or 'surrogate representation' ('S-representation'). This notion provides an empirically plausible and well-defined set of functional criteria for a genuinely representational mechanism, drawing an illuminating analogy between the functional role of a possible cognitive mechanism and a type of ordinary representation. The third part is a 'mechanistic account of content'. This provides a naturalistically respectable foundation for representation's paradigmatic semantic properties at the subpersonal level. Overall, the mechanistic approach ensures that representation ascriptions play a robust role anchored in our dominant explanatory framework. From this perspective, the future of cognitive representation looks bright.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: BD418 Mind ; BF0311 Consciousness. Cognition