Philosophy and Connectionist Theory

Philosophy and Connectionist Theory

Philosophy and Connectionist Theory

Philosophy and Connectionist Theory

Excerpt

Philosophers have been involved with cognitive science from the earliest days of the disciplines. During the last three decades many ideas developed by logicians and philosophers of language and philosophy of mind have been exploited by investigators building models and theories about one or another cognitive capacity. Those theories and models have, in turn, had an enormous impact on the work of philosophers. As a result, the philosophy of cognitive science has become one of the most exciting and one of the fastest growing domains of philosophical inquiry and analysis.

Until the early 1980s, almost all cognitive models viewed the mind as what Allen Newell has called a "physical symbol system." Models that adopt this perspective treat cognitive processes--processes like problem solving, language comprehension, and higher visual processing--as rule governed symbol manipulation. Although there was no shortage of writers expressing reservations, or outright skepticism, about such models, the standard reply was very compelling: Models that adopt the physical symbol systems perspective were the only up and running options available. They were the only game in town.

This situation has changed very dramatically since 1984. In that period there has been an enormous shift of attention toward a style of cognitive modeling that appears to be radically different from the physical symbol system paradigm. These new connectionist models are inspired by the network-like architecture of biological brains. The often startling results achieved by such models have had a revolutionary effect in the cognitive science community and in related disciplines.

This volume was designed to provide philosophers who have been working in the area with a forum for expressing their views on these recent developments in . . .

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