14Nov2016meeting

From A conversation about the brain
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The participants at this meeting were Thor Grünbaum, Denis Buehler, Tim Salomons, Jenny Read, James Stazicker and Andrew Glennerster.

Discussion focussed on two challenges with a basis in the philosophical literature about representation. First, we assessed whether and how the proposed visual process could qualify as a system with genuinely representational content. In particular, we assessed whether the process could meet the standard constraint that a system of representation must be capable of misrepresentation. In this context, we also assessed which elements of the process (r, W, or the process of matching elements of W with r) are the most plausible loci of representation. Secondly, we assessed the implications of the fact that the proposed visual process is, on the face of it, not compositional: the process does not include discrete symbols which recur across different representations. Thor Grünbaum pressed the concern that this makes it hard to see how an ambitious extension of the proposal to cover thought, as well as perception, could succeed. In particular, the lack of compositionality makes it hard to see how the proposal could explain systematic connections among the propositions a thinker can think (the sort of explanatory demand emphasized by Jerry Fodor and other philosophers).