Connectionism and cognitive architecture: A critical analysis

Cognition 28 (1-2):3-71 (1988)
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Abstract

This paper explores the difference between Connectionist proposals for cognitive a r c h i t e c t u r e a n d t h e s o r t s o f m o d e l s t hat have traditionally been assum e d i n c o g n i t i v e s c i e n c e . W e c l a i m t h a t t h e m a j o r d i s t i n c t i o n i s t h a t , w h i l e b o t h Connectionist and Classical architectures postulate representational mental states, the latter but not the former are committed to a symbol-level of representation, or to a ‘language of thought’: i.e., to representational states that have combinatorial syntactic and semantic structure. Several arguments for combinatorial structure in mental representations are then reviewed. These include arguments based on the ‘systematicity’ of mental representation: i.e., on the fact that cognitive capacities always exhibit certain symmetries, so that the ability to entertain a given thought implies the ability to entertain thoughts with semantically related contents. We claim that such arguments make a powerful case that mind/brain architecture is not Connectionist at the cognitive level. We then consider the possibility that Connectionism may provide an account of the neural (or ‘abstract neurological’) structures in which Classical cognitive architecture is implemented. We survey a n u m b e r o f t h e s t a n d a r d a r g u m e n t s t h a t h a v e b e e n o f f e r e d i n f a v o r o f Connectionism, and conclude that they are coherent only on this interpretation.

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Zenon Pylyshyn
Rutgers University - New Brunswick

Citations of this work

Representation in Cognitive Science.Nicholas Shea - 2018 - Oxford University Press.
Perceptual symbol systems.Lawrence W. Barsalou - 1999 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 22 (4):577-660.
On the proper treatment of connectionism.Paul Smolensky - 1988 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 11 (1):1-23.
Natural language and natural selection.Steven Pinker & Paul Bloom - 1990 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 13 (4):707-27.

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References found in this work

Language and Mind.Noam Chomsky - 1968 - Cambridge University Press.
On the proper treatment of connectionism.Paul Smolensky - 1988 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 11 (1):1-23.

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