The University of Sussex

Dealing in futures: folk psychology and the role of representations in cognitive science

Andy Clark

Two famous theses distinguish the Churchlands' longstanding speculations on the scientific futures market. The theses are (i) that there is something rotten at the heart of folk psychology, and (ii) that the march of computational and neuroscientific investigation will lead us to embrace a set of distinctly different explanatory and representational resources for understanding the mind. I argue in favour of the latter proposition, but against its use as an argument against folk psychology. More strongly, I suggest that it is against the backdrop of an increasingly alien and fragmentary inner scientific story that the virtues of the folk framework become most apparent. The scientific advances upon which the Churchlands so ably draw will have their most profound impact not upon our assessment of the folk discourse but upon our conception of the role of representations in the explanatory projects of cognitive science. Representation, I suggest, will indeed be reconceived, somewhat marginalized, and will emerge as at best one of the objects of cognitive scientific explanation rather than as its foundation.


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