Philosophy | Philosophy of Mind
P561 | 3412 | Ryder

Note: This class meets with COGSCI Q700

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.