The Life & Mind Seminar Network

Seminar #12: Why representation needn’t be re-presentation

Posted in Seminars by Tom Froese on February 26, 2007

The next Life and Mind seminar will be on Wednesday, the 28th of Feb., at 15:00 in room ARUN 404A. Joel will be leading a discussion on:

Why Representation is Not Antithetical to Autopoiesis or Operational Closure

…Or: Why Representation Needn’t Be Re-Presentation

In all of the debates over representations, most people seem at least implicitly to accept that there appear to be, in practice if not principle, such things as mental representations. So anti-representationalists might hold one of the following views:

1. The account of representations that they see as being put forward by the representationalists is fundamentally flawed, so that what is needed is a different account.

2. Representations exist *in* *some* *sense*, but are not important enough to talk about. They are, as it were, an uninteresting distraction.

3. Representations are valid for discussion but can, in principle, be reduced to simpler entities that don’t involve them.

4. By approaching mind at the right level, representations can be eliminated from discussion altogether. Mental representations are illusory. Once the illusion is revealed, representations may (or may not!) disappear.

5. Talk of representations *is* (potentially) appropriate so long as we’re clear that the distinctions being made (between representations and representeds) are the observer’s, not the system’s.

I want to argue that the position of representations with respect to autopoiesis is analogous to the position of objectivity with respect to Husserl or Heidegger. It is not the case that objectivity does not exist for them, but rather that objectivity is necessarily (if counter-intuitively to some) grounded in subjective experience. Likewise the best account of representations may be one that grounds them in autopoiesis: a paradox perhaps, but certainly not a contradiction!

All welcome!


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