Philosophy 290-3

Fall 2020

Number Title Instructor Days/time Room
290-3 Graduate Seminar: Mental Representation, Function and Perception Lee W 12-2 Moses 234

This seminar will be a survey of philosophical debates about the nature of mental representation, with a particular focus on mental representations as theoretical posits of cognitive science, as opposed to the propositional attitudes of personal-level folk psychology, and with a particular focus on mental representation in perception. Some of the big questions we will address include: What role does an internal state have to play to count as a representation? What varieties of representation are there? How exactly do representations of different kinds help explain the function and behavior of a system? How should we understand the idea that representations have “contents” concerning the environment, what exactly fixes these contents, and how do they contribute to the explanatory role of a representation? To what extent do cognitive/perceptual processes actually use representations?

Specific topics covered (time permitting) will include : representational formats (e.g. analog vs digital representation); indicator/informational accounts of representation; representation by structural resemblance; teleosemantic theories and the evolutionary function of representation; the role of representations in solving the inverse problem and allowing perceptual constancies; representation in non-animal species such as plants; neural coding and representation at the neural level; probabilistic representation and the role of representation in Bayesian accounts of perceptual computation; representation in neural networks.