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On Iconic-Discursive Representations: Do they Bring us Closer to a Humean Representational Mind?

  • Guillermo LorenzoEmail author
  • Emilio Rubiera


This paper argues, contrary to Fodor’s well-known position, that the iconic and discursive modes of representation are not mutually exclusive categories. It is argued that there exists at least a third kind of representation which blends the semantic properties of icons and the syntactic properties of discourses. We reason that this iconic-discursive genus behaves differently from other representational formats, such as distributed representations or maps, previously put forward as challenging Fodor’s basic distinction. A reflection follows about how this kind of representation impacts on the Fodorian issues for which the original dual distinction was argumentatively instrumental, namely, the kinds of codes and possible inter-code relations accessible to the representational mind. The suggestion is put forward that iconic-discursive representations may facilitate trade-offs between the world and the representational mind, as well as between the differently complex levels of representation that mediate between percepts and concepts. We conclude that such aspects of the computational mind, which until now appeared to be stubbornly resistant with respect to a conciliation of Hume’s empiricism and Fodor’s computationalism, may be more easily accessed and understood taking advantage of the biosemiotics perspective and acknowledging the richness of the biosemiotics codes accessible to cognition.


Representational theory of mind Icons Discourses Likeness Compositionality 



This paper has benefitted from a grant of the Spanish Government (Ministerio de Ciencia, Información y Universidades, Ref. FFI2017-87699P). The authors want to express their gratitude to the reviewers for their helpful and insighfiul comments. All remaining errors are our own.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Facultad de Filosofía y LetrasUniversidad de OviedoOviedoSpain

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