From Symbols to Icons: The return of resemblance in the cognitive neuroscience revolution

Darwin College Humanities and Social Sciences Group
Lincoln Colling
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Tuesday, October 24, 2017 - 14:10 to 15:00

Boone and Piccinini (2015) have recently argued that cognitive neuroscience constitutes a revolutionary break from traditional cognitive science, distinguished by its abandonment of the autonomy of psychology from neuroscience in favour of a multilevel mechanistic approach to neurocognitive explanation. Drawing on work by Williams and Colling (2017), I explain one important aspect of this revolution: a dramatic shift away from thinking of cognitive representations as arbitrary symbols towards thinking of them as icons that replicate structural characteristics of their targets. This shift has received increasing attention in the philosophical literature in recent years (e.g., Churchland 2012; Cummins 1989; Grush 2004; Gładziejewski and Miłkowski 2017; O’Brien and Opie 2015; Ryder 2004; Williams 2017). We aim to clarify what it consists in, and explain why it has occurred.

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