, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 301-318
Date: 07 Jul 2009

Where is Cognitive Science Heading?

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Abstract

According to Ramsey (Representation reconsidered, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2007), only classical cognitive science, with the related notions of input–output and structural representations, meets the job description challenge (the challenge to show that a certain structure or process serves a representational role at the subpersonal level). By contrast, connectionism and other nonclassical models, insofar as they exploit receptor and tacit notions of representation, are not genuinely representational. As a result, Ramsey submits, cognitive science is taking a U-turn from representationalism back to behaviourism, thus presupposing that (1) the emergence of cognitivism capitalized on the concept of representation, and that (2) the materialization of nonclassical cognitive science involves a return to some form of pre-cognitivist behaviourism. We argue against both (1) and (2), by questioning Ramsey’s divide between classical and representational, versus nonclassical and nonrepresentational, cognitive models. For, firstly, connectionist and other nonclassical accounts have the resources to exploit the notion of a structural isomorphism, like classical accounts (the beefing-up strategy); and, secondly, insofar as input–output and structural representations refer to a cognitive agent, classical explanations fail to meet the job description challenge (the deflationary strategy). Both strategies work independently of each other: if the deflationary strategy succeeds, contra (1), cognitivism has failed to capitalize on the relevant concept of representation; if the beefing-up strategy is sound, contra (2), the return to a pre-cognitivist era cancels out.