Cognitive Science | Seminar in Cognitive Science
Q700 | 0942 | Ryder


Q700 Mental Representation
4:00-6:30pm, W     SY 022
This class meets with PHIL P561

Philosophers often appeal to mental representations as an
intermediate step in solving the mind-body problem, and cognitive
scientists often refer to them in their theories of how the mind
works. In this course we will ask: what are mental representations,
and why do we need them, if indeed we do? First we will do a quick
survey of how philosophers and cognitive scientists rely upon the
notion of mental representation. Then we will look at mainstream
contemporary theories of representation (eg. Fodor, Dretske,
Millikan, Cummins, and conceptual role semantics), emphasizing how
these theories propose to explain the 'aboutness' of mental
representations, how their content is determined, and their relation
to representation more generally. Once we have a handle on this
mainstream picture, we will examine various challenges to it, old
and new: behaviourism, the dynamical hypothesis, instrumentalism,
and theories that take linguistic rather than mental representation
to be primary. This will allow us to better understand the proposed
explanatory role of mental representation in intentionality,
reasoning, and embedded action, figure out where the empirical
issues lie, and see whether the mainstream theories are on the right
track.