Representation Redux: Is there still a useful role for representation to play in the context of embodied, dynamicist and situated theories of mind?

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Abstract

The last fifteen years have seen a sea change in cognitive science where issues of embodiment, situatedness and dynamics have become central to the explanatory resources in use. [U+2028]This paper evaluates the suggestion that representation should be eliminated from the explanative vocabulary of cognitive science. We trace the history of the issue by examining the usefulness of action-oriented representation (AOR), and we reassess if there is still a good explanatory role for the notion of representation in contemporary cognitive science by looking at contexts of re-use, contexts of informational fusion and elaboration, contexts of virtualist perception, and contexts of representational extension, restructuring and substitution. We claim that in these contexts the notion of representation continues to fulfill a valuable function in linking the inner informational economy of cognitive systems to how they interact and couple with the world, and that the role of representation in explanation has not been superseded by enactive and radical embodied theories of cognition. The final section of the paper suggests that we might be better off adopting a more pluralist research perspective, accepting that certain branches of cognitive science seem to require the positing of representations in order to develop, whereas others (e.g. research into minimal cognitive systems), do not appear to require it. We conclude that trying to suppress the notion of representation in all areas of cognitive science is seriously misguided.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-47
Number of pages22
JournalNew Ideas in Psychology
Volume40
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016

Keywords

  • Action-oriented representation (AOR)
  • Embodied cognitive science
  • Representation
  • Space

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