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What is a Theory of Neural Representation For?

Richmond, Andrew (2023) What is a Theory of Neural Representation For? [Preprint]

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This paper explores the way representational notions figure into cognitive science, with a focus on neuroscience. Philosophers have a way of skipping over that question and going straight to another: what is neural representation? The way representa- tional notions figure into cognitive science is not forgotten — the phrase “neural representation” usually means “representation as cognitive science understands that notion.” But eliding this phrase allows philosophers to focus more squarely on an account of neural representation itself. I argue that the wrong part of the question has been elided. Our ultimate questions, as philosophers of cognitive science, are about the function and epistemology of cognitive scientific explanations — in this case, explanations using representational notions. To answer those questions it is essential to understand the role the notion of representation plays in cognitive science — what it enables scientists to do or explain, and how — but not necessarily important to understand the nature of a property, NEURAL REPRESENTATION, that notion might pick out. I describe this approach, argue that it is a scientifically sensitive form of realism that philosophy of neuroscience can benefit from, and use it to give an account of representational explanation. Specifically, I propose that representational notions help us construct and understand models of the brain’s causal structure, and that we can see how they do this by examining their role in scientific cognition, i.e., without debating the nature of any property they might refer to.

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Item Type: Preprint
Richmond, Andrewarichmo8@uwo.ca0000-0001-7824-7474
Keywords: Cognitive Science, Representation, Scientific Explanation, Philosophy of Science
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science > Concepts and Representations
General Issues > Explanation
Depositing User: Andrew Richmond
Date Deposited: 17 Oct 2023 20:41
Last Modified: 17 Oct 2023 20:41
Item ID: 22668
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science > Concepts and Representations
General Issues > Explanation
Date: 11 August 2023

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