Structural representation and surrogative reasoning

Synthese 87 (3):449 - 508 (1991)


It is argued that a number of important, and seemingly disparate, types of representation are species of a single relation, here called structural representation, that can be described in detail and studied in a way that is of considerable philosophical interest. A structural representation depends on the existence of a common structure between a representation and that which it represents, and it is important because it allows us to reason directly about the representation in order to draw conclusions about the phenomenon that it depicts. The present goal is to give a general and precise account of structural representation, then to use that account to illuminate several problems of current philosophical interest — including some that do not initially seem to involve representation at all. In particular, it is argued that ontological reductions (like that of the natural numbers to sets), compositional accounts of semantics, several important sorts of mental representation, and (perhaps) possible worlds semantics for intensional logics are all species of structural representation and are fruitfully studied in the framework developed here.

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Chris Swoyer
University of Oklahoma

References found in this work

Word and Object.Willard Van Orman Quine - 1960 - Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.
The Language of Thought.Jerry A. Fodor - 1975 - Harvard University Press.
Philosophical Explanations.Robert Nozick - 1981 - Harvard University Press.

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Citations of this work

Representation in Cognitive Science.Nicholas Shea - 2018 - Oxford University Press.
Modelling and Representing: An Artefactual Approach to Model-Based Representation.Tarja Knuuttila - 2011 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 42 (2):262-271.
Scientific Representation: Against Similarity and Isomorphism.Mauricio Suárez - 2003 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 17 (3):225-244.

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