Dress Rehearsals, Previews, and Encores: A New Account of Mental Representation



One of the central debates in cognitive science is the dispute over the role of representation in cognition: on computational/representational accounts, representations are theoretically central; on dynamic systems approaches in which cognition is investigated as a particular sort of physical process, representations play either no role, or, at best, a derivative one. But these two perspectives lead to a deeply unsatisfying theoretical divide: accounts situated in the representational camp are plagued by the inscrutable problem of intentionality, while those hedging towards anti-representationalism seem incapable of saying anything theoretically interesting about high-level cognition. This unhelpful polarization is due in part, at least, to a muddy debate; while some take representationalism to be a commitment to the necessity of conceptual representations for cognition, representations the having of which require certain conceptual capacities, others do not. Recently, there has been a surge of work on non-conceptual representation. This article aims to add to this movement by suggesting a particular cognitive mechanism for non-conceptual representations, one that plays a pivotal role in making conceptual representations possible. One of the central consequences of this new view of representation is the possibility of a non-question-begging naturalistic account of intentionality.