The paper develops an account of minimal traces devoid of representational content and exploits an analogy to a predictive processing framework of perception. As perception can be regarded as a prediction of the present on the basis of sparse sensory inputs without any representational content, episodic memory can be conceived of as a “prediction of the past” on the basis of a minimal trace, i.e., an informationally sparse, merely causal link to a previous experience. The resulting notion of episodic memory (...) will be validated as a natural kind distinct from imagination. This trace minimalist view contrasts with two theory camps dominating the philosophical debate on memory. On one side, we face versions of the Causal Theory that hold on to the idea that episodic remembering requires a memory trace that causally links the event of remembering to the event of experience and carries over representational content from the content of experience to the content of remembering. The Causal Theory, however, fails to account for the epistemic generativity of episodic memory and is psychologically and information-theoretically implausible. On the other side, a new camp of simulationists is currently forming up. Motivated by empirical and conceptual deficits of the Causal Theory, they reject not only the necessity of preserving representational content, but also the necessity of a causal link between experience and memory. They argue that remembering is nothing but a peculiar form of imagination, peculiar only in that it has been reliably produced and is directed towards an episode of one’s personal past. Albeit sharing their criticism of the Causal Theory and, in particular, rejecting its demand for an intermediary carrier of representational content, the paper argues that a causal connection to experience is still necessary to fulfill even the minimal requirements of past-directedness and reliability. (shrink)
Colloquially, episodic memory is described as “the memory of personally experienced events”. Even though episodic memory has been studied in psychology and neuroscience for about six decades, there is still great uncertainty as to what episodic memory is. Here we ask how episodic memory should be characterized in order to be validated as a natural kind. We propose to conceive of episodic memory as a knowledge-like state that is identified with an experientially based mnemonic representation of an episode that allows (...) for a mnemonic simulation thereof. We call our analysis the Sequence Analysis of Episodic Memory since episodes will be analyzed in terms of sequences of events. Our philosophical analysis of episodic memory is driven and supported by experimental results from psychology and neuroscience. We discuss selected experimental results that provide exemplary evidence for uniform causal mechanisms underlying the properties of episodic memory and argue that episodic memory is a natural kind. The argumentation proceeds along three cornerstones: First, psychological evidence suggests that a violation of any of the proposed conditions for episodic memory amounts to a deficiency of episodic memory and no form of memory or cognitive process but episodic memory fulfills them. Second, empirical results support a claim that the principal anatomical substrate of episodic memory is the hippocampus. Finally, we can pin down causal mechanisms onto neural activities in the hippocampus to explain the psychological states and processes constituting episodic memory. (shrink)
Memory perspectives on past events allegedly take one of two shapes. In field memories, we recall episodes from a first-person point of view, while in observer memories, we look at a past scene from a third-person perspective. But this mere visuospatial dichotomy faces several practical and conceptual challenges. First, this binary distinction is not exhaustive. Second, this characterization insufficiently accounts for the phenomenology of observer memories. Third, the focus on the visual aspect of memory perspective neglects emotional, agential, and self-related (...) social aspects. Fourth, the focus on the time of recall neglects the fact that visual, emotional, agential, and social aspects of perspective can also be dissociated in the original experience. In this chapter, we move away from the standard visual dichotomy. Instead, we propose that memory perspective is better understood along four lines: visual, agential, emotional, and social. Drawing on empirical research, we argue that these dimensions predict a disposition to recall a past event based on the present situation of the memorizer. This account supports seeing episodic memory as a natural kind, supported by scenario construction mechanisms and minimal memory traces. By remapping the classic distinction between field and observer perspectives along four dimensions, our proposal provides explanatory advantages and secures practical gains by enabling testable hypotheses. (shrink)
Leading linguists and philosophers report on all aspects of compositionality, the notion that the meaning of an expression can be derived from its parts. This book explores every dimension of this field, reporting critically on different lines of research, revealing connections between them, and highlighting current problems and opportunities.
Representational systems such as language, mind and perhaps even the brain exhibit a structure that is often assumed to be compositional. That is, the semantic value of a complex representation is determined by the semantic value of their parts and the way they are put together. Dating back to the late 19th century, the principle of compositionality has regained wide attention recently. Since the principle has been dealt with very differently across disciplines, the aim of the two volumes is to (...) bring together the diverging approaches. They assemble a collection of original papers that cover the topic of compositionality from virtually all perspectives of interest in the contemporary debate. The well-chosen international list of authors includes psychologists, neuroscientists, computer scientists, linguists, and philosophers. (shrink)
The doctrine that meanings are entitieswith a determinate and independent reality is often believed tohave been undermined by Quine's thought experiment of radicaltranslation, which results in an argument for the indeterminacy oftranslation. This paper argues to the contrary. Starting fromQuine's assumption that the meanings of observation sentences arestimulus meanings, i.e., set-theoretical constructions of neuronalstates uniquely determined by inter-subjectively observable facts,the paper shows that this meaning assignment, up to isomorphism,is uniquely extendable to all expressions that occur inobservation sentences. To do so, (...) a theorem recently proven byHodges is used. To derive the conclusion, one only has to assumethat languages are compositional, abide by a generalized contextprinciple and by what I call the category principle. Theseassumptions originating in Frege and Husserl are coherent withQuine's overall position. It is concluded that Quine'snaturalistic approach does not justify scepticism with regard tomeaning, but should rather result in a view that affiliatessemantics with neuroscience. (shrink)
Contemporary semantic theories can be classified along two dimensions: (i) the way and time-course in which contextual factors influence sentence truth-conditions; and (ii) whether and to what extent comprehension involves sensory, motor and emotional processes. In order to explore this theoretical space, our ERP study investigates the time-course of the interaction between the lexically specified telic component of a noun (the function of the object to which the noun refers to, e.g., a funnel is generally used to pour liquids into (...) containers) and an ad-hoc affordance contextually induced by the situation described in the discourse. We found that, if preceded by a neutral discourse context, a verb incongruent with the noun’s telic component as in “She uses the funnel to hang her coat” elicited an enhanced N400 compared to a congruent verb as in “She uses the funnel to pour water into a container”. However, if the situation introduced in the preceding discourse induced a new function for the object as an ad-hoc affordance (e.g., the funnel is glued to the wall and the agent wants to hang the coat), we observed a crossing-over regarding the direction of the N400 effect: comparing the ad-hoc affordance-inducing context with the neutral context, the N400 for the incongruent verb was significantly reduced, whereas the N400 for the congruent verb was significantly enhanced. We explain these results as a consequence of the incorporation of the contextually triggered ad-hoc affordance into the meaning of the noun. Combining these results with an analysis of semantic similarity values between test sentences and contexts, we argue that one possibility is that the incorporation of an ad-hoc affordance may be explained on the basis of the mental simulation of concurrent motor information. (shrink)
Synesthesia is a phenomenon in which an additional nonstandard perceptual experience occurs consistently in response to ordinary stimulation applied to the same or another modality. Recent studies suggest an important role of semantic representations in the induction of synesthesia. In the present proposal we try to link the empirically grounded theory of sensory-motor contingency and mirror system based embodied simulation to newly discovered cases of swimming-style color synesthesia. In the latter color experiences are evoked only by showing the synesthetes a (...) picture of a swimming person or asking them to think about a given swimming style. Neural mechanisms of mirror systems seem to be involved here. It has been shown that for mirror-sensory synesthesia, such as mirror-touch or mirror-pain synesthesia, concurrent experiences are caused by the overactivity in the mirror neuron system responding to the specific observation. The comparison of different forms of synesthesia has the potential of challenging conventional thinking on this phenomenon and providing a more general, sensory-motor account of synesthesia encompassing cases driven by semantic or emulational rather than pure sensory or motor representations. (shrink)
The paper argues that cognitive states of biological systems are inherently temporal. Three adequacy conditions for neuronal models of representation are vindicated: the compositionality of meaning, the compositionality of content, and the co-variation with content. Classicist and connectionist approaches are discussed and rejected. Based on recent neurobiological data, oscillatory networks are introduced as a third alternative. A mathematical description in a Hilbert space framework is developed. The states of this structure can be regarded as conceptual representations satisfying the three conditions.
What has the self to be like such that introspective awareness of it is possible? The paper asks if Descartes’s idea of an inner self can be upheld and discusses this issue by invoking two principles: the phenomenal transparency of experience and the semantic compositionality of conceptual content. It is assumed that self-awareness is a second-order state either in the domain of experience or in the domain of thought. In the former case self-awareness turns out empty if experience is transparent. (...) In the latter, it can best be conceived of as a form of mental quotation. Various proposed analyses of direct and indirect quotation are discussed and tested regarding their applicability to thought. It is concluded that, on the assumption of compositionality, the inner self is only insofar accessible to awareness as it has an accessible phonological structure, as apparently only inner speech does. (shrink)
The Complex-First Paradox consists in a set of collectively incompatible but individually well-confirmed propositions that regard the evolution, development, and cortical realization of the meanings of concrete nouns. Although these meanings are acquired earlier than those of other word classes, they are semantically more complex and their cortical realizations more widely distributed. For a neurally implemented syntaxsemantics interface, it should thus take more effort to establish a link between a concept and its lexical expression. However, in ontogeny and phylogeny, capabilities (...) demanding more effort, ceteris paribus, develop and evolve later than those demanding less effort. The paradox points to an explanatory deficit in linguistic theory. (shrink)
This paper addresses various solutions to Meno's Problem: Why is it that knowledge is more valuable than merely true belief? Given both a pragmatist as well as a veritist understanding of epistemic value, it is argued that a reliabilist analysis of knowledge, in general, promises a hopeful strategy to explain the extra value of knowledge. It is, however, shown that two recent attempts to solve Meno's Problem within reliabilism are severely flawed: Olsson's conditional probability solution and Goldman's value autonomization solution. (...) The paper proceeds with a discussion of the purpose of having a higher value of knowledge as opposed to merely true belief, both in evolutionary and social terms. It claims that under a reliabilist analysis of knowledge it can be explained how knowers could evolve rather than just truthful believers. Subsequently, the paper develops an account of how we can manipulate our testimonial environment in an epistemically beneficial way by valuing reliably produced true belief more that just true belief and so gives an indirect justification of the extra value of knowledge. (shrink)
Frames, i.e., recursive attribute-value structures, are a general format for the decomposition of lexical concepts. Attributes assign unique values to objects and thus describe functional relations. Concepts can be classified into four groups: sortal, individual, relational and functional concepts. The classification is reflected by different grammatical roles of the corresponding nouns. The paper aims at a cognitively adequate decomposition, particularly, of sortal concepts by means of frames. Using typed feature structures, an explicit formalism for the characterization of cognitive frames is (...) developed. The frame model can be extended to account for typicality effects. Applying the paradigm of object-related neural synchronization, furthermore, a biologically motivated model for the cortical implementation of frames is developed. Cortically distributed synchronization patterns may be regarded as the fingerprints of concepts. (shrink)
This study explores the relation between pain sensitivity and the cognitive processing of words. 130 participants evaluated the pain-relatedness of a total of 600 two-syllabic nouns, and subsequently reported on their own pain sensitivity. The results demonstrate that pain-sensitive people (based on their self-report) associate words more strongly with pain than less sensitive people. In particular, concrete nouns like syringe, wound, knife, and cactus, are considered to be more pain-related for those who are more pain-sensitive. We discuss our results in (...) the light of three theoretical frameworks – cognitive bias, prototype theory, embodied account. We argue that the latter is best suited to explain the results of this study in the sense in which it implies the principle of body specificity, according to which different bodily characteristics lead to corresponding differences in the way in which people construct concepts and word meanings. (shrink)
We propose that rapid eye movement (REM) and slow-wave sleep contribute differently to the formation of episodic memories. REM sleep is important for building up invariant object representations that eventually recur to gamma-band oscillations in the neocortex. In contrast, slow-wave sleep is more directly involved in the consolidation of episodic memories through replay of sequential neural activity in hippocampal place cells.
Mental state reasoning or theory-of-mind has been the subject of a rich body of imaging research. Although such investigations routinely tap a common set of regions, the precise function of each area remains a contentious matter. With the help of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we sought to determine which areas are involved when processing mental state or intentional metarepresentations by focusing on the relational aspect of such representations. Using non-intentional relational representations such as spatial relations between persons and between (...) objects as a contrast, the results ascertained the involvement of the precuneus, the temporal poles, and the medial prefrontal cortex in the processing of intentional representations. In contrast, the anterior superior temporal sulcus and the left temporo-parietal junction were implicated when processing representations that refer to the presence of persons in relational contexts in general. The right temporo-parietal junction, however, was specifically activated for persons entering spatial relations. The level of representational complexity, a previously unexplored factor, was also found to modulate the neural response in some brain regions, such as the medial prefrontal cortex and the right temporo-parietal junction. These findings highlight the need to take into account the critical roles played by an extensive network of neural regions during mental state reasoning. (shrink)
Experimental data suggest that the division between the visual ventral and dorsal pathways may indeed indicate that static and dynamical information is processed separately. Contrary to Hurford, it is suggested that the ventral pathway primarily generates representations of objects, whereas the dorsal pathway produces representations of events. The semantic object/event distinction may relate to the morpho-syntactic noun/verb distinction.
We defend a realistic attitude towards biological species. We argue that two species are not different species because they differ in intrinsic features, be they phenotypic or genomic, but because they are separated with regard to gene flow. There are no intrinsic species essences. However, there are relational ones. We argue that bearing a gene flow relation to conspecifics may serve as the essence of a species. Our view of the species as a Gene-Flow Community differs from Mayr’s definition of (...) the species as a reproductive community. In a reproductive community, each organism is able to successfully reproduce with each other. However, there are species in which geographically distant organisms lost their ability to successfully reproduce, due to strong genetic adaptations to the respective local environmental conditions. Despite this loss of the ability to mutually reproduce, they are still bound by gene flow via continuous intermediate populations. This replacement of Mayr’s notion of an interbreeding potential as a criterion for species membership has important implications for the treatment of populations in allopatry and sympatry. (shrink)
This study explores the relation between pain sensitivity and the cognitive processing of words. 130 participants evaluated the pain-relatedness of a total of 600 two-syllabic nouns, and subsequently reported on their own pain sensitivity. The results demonstrate that pain-sensitive people associate words more strongly with pain than less sensitive people. In particular, concrete nouns like ‘syringe’, ‘wound’, ‘knife’, and ‘cactus’ are considered to be more pain-related for those who are more pain-sensitive. These findings dovetail with recent studies suggesting that certain (...) bodily characteristics influence the way people form mental representations (Casasanto, 2009). We discuss three mechanisms which could potentially account for our findings: attention and memory bias, prototype analysis, and embodied cognition. We argue that, whereas none of these three accounts can be ruled out, the embodied cognition hypothesis provides a particularly promising view to accommodate our data. (shrink)
The paper critically reviews Jerry Fodor's book In Critical Condition: Polemic Essays on Cognitive Science and the Philosophy of Mind. It focuses on Fodor's compositionality arguments and their relevance to the following questions: How should concepts be individuated? What has semantics to do with epistemology? Who is right in the debate over classical and connectionist theories of cognition? How can the semantic properties of a mental state be inherited from the semantic properties of the state's constituents? The paper finally argues (...) that Fodor's opposition to functional role semantics might jeopardize his view that semantic compositionality requires appropriate constituent relations between complex and less complex concepts. (shrink)
The “complex first” paradox.Markus Werning - 2008 - Interaction Studies. Social Behaviour and Communication in Biological and Artificial Systemsinteraction Studies / Social Behaviour and Communication in Biological and Artificial Systemsinteraction Studies 9 (1):67-83.details
The Complex-First Paradox regards the semantics of nouns and consists of a set of together incompatible, but individually well confirmed propositions about the evolution and development of language, the semantics of word classes and the cortical realization of word meaning. Theoretical and empirical considerations support the view that the concepts expressed by concrete nouns are more complex and their neural realizations more widely distributed in cortex than those expressed by other word classes. For a cortically implemented syntax–semantics interface, the more (...) widely distributed a concept’s neural realization is, the more effort it takes to establish a link between the concept and its expression. If one assumes the principle that in ontogeny and phylogeny capabilities demanding more effort develop, respectively, evolve later than those demanding less effort, the empirical observation seems paradoxical that the meanings of concrete nouns, in ontogeny and phylogeny, are acquired earlier than those of other word classes. (shrink)