The University of Sussex

Doing without representing?

Andy Clark, Pepa Toribio

Connectionism and classicism, it generally appears, have at least this much in common: both place some notion of internal representation at the heart of a scientific study of mind. In recent years, however, a much more radical view has gained increasing popularity. This view calls into question the commitment to internal representation itself. More strikingly still, this new wave of anti-representationalism is rooted not in 'armchair' theorizing but in practical attempts to model and understand intelligent, adaptive behaviour. In this paper we first present, and then critically assess, a variety of recent anti- representationalist treatments. We suggest that so far, at least, the sceptical rhetoric outpaces both evidence and argument. Some probable causes of this premature scepticism are isolated. Nonetheless, the anti-representationalist challenge is shown to be both important and progressive insofar as it forces us to see beyond the bare representational/non-representational dichotomy and to recognize instead a rich continuum of degrees and types of representationality.

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