, Volume 101, Issue 3, pp 433–463 | Cite as

Natural deduction in connectionist systems

  • William Bechtel


The relation between logic and thought has long been controversial, but has recently influenced theorizing about the nature of mental processes in cognitive science. One prominent tradition argues that to explain the systematicity of thought we must posit syntactically structured representations inside the cognitive system which can be operated upon by structure sensitive rules similar to those employed in systems of natural deduction. I have argued elsewhere that the systematicity of human thought might better be explained as resulting from the fact that we have learned natural languages which are themselves syntactically structured. According to this view, symbols of natural language are external to the cognitive processing system and what the cognitive system must learn to do is produce and comprehend such symbols. In this paper I pursue that idea by arguing that ability in natural deduction itself may rely on pattern recognition abilities that enable us to operate on external symbols rather than encodings of rules that might be applied to internal representations. To support this suggestion, I present a series of experiments with connectionist networks that have been trained to construct simple natural deductions in sentential logic. These networks not only succeed in reconstructing the derivations on which they have been trained, but in constructing new derivations that are only similar to the ones on which they have been trained.


Pattern Recognition Mental Process Natural Language Processing System Internal Representation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • William Bechtel
    • 1
  1. 1.Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology Program Department of PhilosophyWashington University in St. LouisSt. LouisUSA

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