Inference to Representation: Scientific Explanation & Two Kinds of Eliminativism

The first EI of term (Feb 12th, 12:00-12:50, Pevensey 2A11) will be led by Jonny Lee:

Inference to Representation: Scientific Explanation & Two Kinds of Eliminativism

Representation features heavily in scientific explanations of cognition. The principle of ‘inference to the best explanation’ (IBE) says that we ought to believe that our best theories are true. If our best theories feature representations then, according to IBE, we ought to believe that those ascriptions are true. At the same time, eliminativism about mental representation remains popular. In its various forms, eliminativism holds that we ought to reject talk of representation in some or all of cognitive science. How do we reconcile the fundamental role of representation in cognitive science with the continued appeal of eliminativism? In beginning to answer this question, we must understand the different motivations belonging to distinctive kinds of eliminativism. There is more than one kind of eliminativism, and the conflation of these kinds leads to conceptual confusion. I will argue that there is an important distinction between a priori and a posteori eliminativism, and furthermore that a priori eliminativism faces serious obstacles in establishing itself as a persuasive challenger to the status quo. I will finish by considering the possibility that the ontology of mental representation could turn out to be more nuanced than philosophers have previously allowed for.

Audio (10mb, .mp3)

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