In this paper we defend structural representations, more specifically neural structural representation. We are not alone in this, many are currently engaged in this endeavor. The direction we take, however, diverges from the main road, a road paved by the mathematical theory of measure that, in the 1970s, established homomorphism as the way to map empirical domains of things in the world to the codomain of numbers. By adopting the mind as codomain, this mapping became a boon for all those convinced that a representation system should bear similarities with what was being represented, but struggled to find a precise account of what such similarities mean. The euforia was brief, however, and soon homomorphism revealed itself to be affected by serious weaknesses, the primary one being that it included systems embarrassingly alien to representations. We find that the defense attempts that have followed, adopt strategies that share a common format: valid structural representations come as “homomorphism plus X”, with various “X”, provided in descriptive format only. Our alternative direction stems from the observation of the overlooked departure from homomorphism as used in the theory of measure and its later use in mental representations. In the former case, the codomain or the realm of numbers, is the most suited for developing theorems detailing the existence and uniqueness of homomorphism for a wide range of empirical domains. In the latter case, the codomain is the realm of the mind, possibly more vague and more ill-defined than the empirical domain itself. The time is ripe for articulating the mapping between represented domains and the mind in formal terms, by exploiting what is currently known about coding mechanisms in the brain. We provide a sketch of a possible development in this direction, one that adopts the theory of neural population coding as codomain. We will show that our framework is not only not in disagreement with the “plus X” proposals, but can lead to natural derivation of several of the “X”.
In this paper we address the epistemological debate between emerging perceptual accounts (PA) of knowing other minds and traditional theory of mind (ToM) approaches to the problem of other minds. We argue that the current formulations of the debate are conceptually misleading and empirically unfounded. Rather, the real contribution of PA is to point out a certain ‘immediacy’ that characterizes episodes of mindreading. We claim that while the intuition of immediacy should be preserved for explaining the nature and function of some cognitive processes of mindreading, the notion of immediacy should apply for describing a particular epistemic attitude and not a particular type of epistemic access. We draw on Wittgenstein’s discussions of one’s relation to other minds to elaborate our claims and to move the epistemological discussions beyond stalling debates between ToM and PA.
Implications of Intensional Perceptual Ascriptions for Relationalism, Disjunctivism, and Representationalism About Perceptual Experience
This paper aims to shed new light on certain philosophical theories of perceptual experience by examining the semantics of perceptual ascriptions such as “Jones sees an apple.” I start with the assumption, recently defended elsewhere, that perceptual ascriptions lend themselves to intensional readings. In the first part of the paper, I defend three theses regarding such readings: (I) intensional readings of perceptual ascriptions ascribe phenomenal properties, (II) perceptual verbs are not ambiguous between intensional and extensional readings, and (III) intensional perceptual ascriptions have a relational form. The second part of the paper describes the implications of I–III for theories of perceptual experience. I argue that I–III support and reconcile the three main views of perceptual experience, relationalism, disjunctivism, and representationalism. However, I–III leave open at least one important point of contention: particularism, the view that we experience external objects. I conclude by exploring the implications of accepting or denying particularism given I–III.
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