Representation, Knowledge, and Structure in Computational Explanations in Cognitive Science

Dissertation, University of Minnesota (1995)
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Abstract

Most of this work is concerned with two theories that underlie cognitive science; theories which I call "the representational theory of intentionality" and "the computational theory of cognition" . While the representational theory of intentionality asserts that mental states are about the world in virtue of a representation relation between the world and the state, the computational theory of cognition asserts that humans and others perform cognitive tasks by computing functions on these representations. CTC draws upon a rich analogy between the mind and digital computers, portraying cognizers as receiving input and generating outputs . ;Since researchers within cognitive science--especially within cognitive psychology, computer science, and philosophy of mind--share a common theoretic background in their adherence to the combination of RTI and CTC, what I call "computationalism" most of the work done in philosophy of mind has been aimed at either refuting or further articulating these two theories. This work is strongly within that tradition. ;RTI and CTC combine to create an explanatory framework for explanation in cognitive science. In this work, I seek to delineate the exact structure of this framework, to determine its components and their overall relationships. In my mind, this involves making implicit aspects of computational explanation explicit, providing an overall rationale for the various components and their relationships, and defending that rationale against criticism. ;In particular, the project of this work is to argue that computationalist explanations of cognition within cognitive science need to make appeals to both representation and knowledge; to distinguish the respective roles of knowledge and of representation in an overall picture of computational explanations, and to develop and argue for definitions of representation and knowledge that would allow those concepts to play their respective roles within computational explanations in cognitive science. ;The first half of this work , therefore, is devoted to theories of representation, especially to the need for, and role of representation in computational explanations. The first half of the work culminates in chapter three with a definition of representation and a picture of the structure of computational explanations. The second half of the project then becomes to generate a definition of knowledge that defines knowledge in non-epistemic language amenable to computationalism and that carries the epistemic burdens placed upon knowledge by its use in computational explanations, as well as to offer a limited defence of that definition within the framework of traditional epistemology

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Charles Wallis
California State University, Long Beach

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