The Elimination of Meaning in Computational Theories of Mind

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract / Description of output

The traditional conception of the mind holds that semantical content is an essential feature distinguishing mental from non-mental systems. This traditional conception has been incorporated into the foundations of recent computational theories of mind, insofar as the notion of ‘mental representation’ is adopted as a primary theoretical device. But a fundamental tension is then built into the picture - to the extent that symbolic ‘representations’ are formal elements of computation, their alleged content is completely gratuitous. Computation is a series of manipulations performed on uninterpreted syntax, and formal structure alone is sufficient for all effective procedures. I argue that the computational paradigm is thematically inconsistent with the search for content or its supposed vehicles. Instead, computational models of cognition should be concerned only with the processing structures that yield the right kinds of input/output profiles, and with how these structures can be implemented in the brain.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReduction and Elimination in Philosophy and the Sciences
Subtitle of host publicationPapers of the 31st International Wittgenstein Symposium
Number of pages3
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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