In this provocative study, Robert Cummins takes on philosophers, both old and new, who pursue the question of mental representation as an abstraction, apart from the constraints of any particular theory or framework. Cummins asserts that mental representation is, in fact, a problem in the philosophy of science, a theoretical assumption that serves different explanatory roles within the different contexts of commonsense or "folk" psychology, orthodox computation, connectionism, or neuroscience.
Cummins looks at existing and traditional accounts by Locke, Fodor, Dretske, Millikan, and others of the nature of mental representation and evaluates these accounts within the context of orthodox computational theories of cognition. He proposes that popular accounts of mental representation are inconsistent with the empirical assumptions of these models, which require an account of representation like that involved in mathematical modeling. In the final chapter he considers how mental representation might look in a connectionist context.
Bradford Books imprint