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Volume 22, 2006

Compositionality, Concepts and Representations II

Christopher Viger
Pages 40-59

Presentations and Symbols
What Cognition Requires of Representationalism

I consider how several results from cognitive science bear on the nature of representation and how representations might be structured. Distinguishing two notions of representation, presentations, which are cases of direct sensing, and symbols, which stand in for something else, I argue that only symbols pose a philosophical problem for naturalizing content. What is required is an account of how one thing can stand in for another. Milner and Goodale’s dual route model of vision offers a model for this ‘stand-in’ relation. Following this model, symbols must play a functional role of activating cognitive operations relevant to what the symbols stand in for. What emerges is an interconnected network of symbols whose tokenings are central – as opposed to modular – cognitive operations. A consequence of this view, which I call an acquired language of thought (ALOT) since most of the symbols humans use are the words of a natural language, is that the framework for central cognition is constructed during the acquisition of a natural language lexicon.Presentations and Symbols: What Cognition Requires of Representationalism

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