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Stephen Downes

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This is a great summary of the paper 'Investigating the concept of representation in the neural and psychological sciences' (13 page PDF) by the same authors. Readers will know I have been sceptical about the existence of mental representations, properly so-called, and this paper points to some of the reasons why. First, it identifies three types of representation in use in psychology and neuroscience: "intentional ("representation," being "about," "identifying"), causal ("responding," "processing"), and information theoretic ("carrying information") concepts." After examining the use of these types of representation, they argue that it is both unclear and confused. They suggest clarifying it would be unworkable (I agree). They also suggest that an eliminitivist approach would also be successful, because researchers will just keep using the terms anyways. Consequently, they encourage the adoption of an "epistemology of the imprecise". I'm fine with imprecision, but I would suggest that the confusion about representation stems from the fact that the concept is incoherent.

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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada
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Last Updated: May 22, 2024 4:36 p.m.

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