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Representation Rectified

Wadham, Jack (2014) Representation Rectified. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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This abstract is a little involved and technical. Those looking for a more leisurely, thematic overview of the thesis can turn to the Introduction, which follows shortly. In the first chapter of the thesis, I examine Andy Clark’s argument for the extended mind thesis (EM henceforth). As Clark acknowledges, his argument for EM relies on a brand of functionalism developed by Frank Jackson and David Braddon-Mitchell. Mark Sprevak claims to have developed a reductio not only of Clark’s argument of EM, but of the functionalist position that Clark’s argument presupposes. I show that this reductio can be blocked, because it rests on an optional presupposition (a presupposition that is anyway implausible). But by rejecting this presupposition, we end up blocking Clark’s argument for EM as well as Sprevak’s reductio of that argument. This result is bad news for Clark, but rather better news for the functionalists on whose work Clark’s argument relies. In chapters 2 and 3, I develop and apply a model-based theory of mental representation. The basic idea is there is a type of mental representation (what I call ‘s-representation’) which is best understood by analogy with scientific models. In chapter 2, I develop a theory of content for s-representations, improving on the work of writers who have attempted to do so in the past. The theory of content I develop makes use of theoretical resources provided by those functionalist writers whose position I defended from Sprevak’s reductio in chapter 1. In chapter 3, I give reasons for thinking that s-representations are biologically ubiquitous and cognitively significant. I then show how my theory of s-representation differs from similar rival accounts in the literature. Finally, I argue that my account has the resources to deal with certain sceptical challenges raised by anti-representationalists (those sceptical of the claim that a certain class of mental capacities can be explained in representational terms). In Part II (chapters 4, 5 and 6), I apply the lessons learned from the first half of the thesis to develop some distinctive claims about the nature of visual perception. I do so by using Alva Noë’s theory of perception as a spring-board. I argue that many of Noë’s most notorious claims are false, but that there are still valuable resources to be gleaned from his theory. I then borrow and redeploy what is valuable in his theory (i.e. certain aspects of his ‘virtual content’ thesis and some of his claims about perspectival content). I do so, in part, by drawing on the s-representation story developed in Part I. I argue, in line with similar claims made by Rick Grush, that Noë’s notion of ‘sensorimotor knowledge’ can usefully be treated as a form of s-representation. With a fully reconstructed version of Noë’s theory in place, I show how it can make sense of some otherwise puzzling findings made by psychologists of perception.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > Philosophy (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.617270
Depositing User: Mr Jack Wadham
Date Deposited: 11 Sep 2014 11:03
Last Modified: 03 Oct 2016 11:17
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/6792

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