Minds and Machines

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 191–235 | Cite as

Neural Representations Observed

  • Eric Thomson
  • Gualtiero Piccinini


The historical debate on representation in cognitive science and neuroscience construes representations as theoretical posits and discusses the degree to which we have reason to posit them. We reject the premise of that debate. We argue that experimental neuroscientists routinely observe and manipulate neural representations in their laboratory. Therefore, neural representations are as real as neurons, action potentials, or any other well-established entities in our ontology.


Representation Neural representation Neuroscience Experiment Teleosemantics 



ET is grateful to Joseph Rouse, Drew Christie, Matteo Colombo, Willem deVries, Val Dusek, Bryce Huebner, Peter Mandik, Mark Okrent, Carl Sachs, Joey O’Doherty, and Paul Thompson for discussion and comments on previous versions. GP is grateful to Daniel Kramer for correspondence on the topic of this article. This material is partially based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. SES-1654982 to Gualtiero Piccinini.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Duke UniversityDurhamUSA
  2. 2.University of Missouri – St. LouisSt. LouisUSA

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