The Role of Mental Variation in Cognitive Science

Feb 3rd, 2012
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Colgate University
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The dispute between more traditional (propositional and "language of thought" based) understanding of cognitive science and recent connectionist theories may be seen as centred, in part, on the role of variation (manipulation) in cognition. More traditional account would appeal to the fact that the correspondence between formal languages and propositional content may be seen as dependent upon the combinatorial structure of strings of symbols. Thus, one may claim that sentences have parts with both fixed and adjustable meanings and that we form new meaningful sentences by rearranging these parts in new combinations. In this case, the ability to vary parts of structured sentences may be seen as quite significant: this ability would help us account for our understanding of propositions we never encountered before.

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