Symbolic Representation

Dretske just doesn’t agree that the Pioneer 10 space probe plate symbols will mean anything to any alien life. We find it easy to understand because we have the context and we live on this planet

What sort of things can be representations?

  • Words/pictures/numbers/diagrams
  • State of mind, can represent almost anything at all

What sort of things can be objects of representations

  • Almost anything (physical objects, sentences, numbers, moods, feelings, emotions, non-existent things)
  • Pictures represent by resemblance → derivative intentionality. This is the ‘resemblance theory of pictorial representation’, or the ‘resemblance theory’

X represents Y → suggests that representation is a relation between two things

Is there a basic type of representation underlying everything else? Crane says mental representations are the most basic level.

We can’t use pictures as they represent by resemblance. When we try to represent the difference between … and …, if … then …, and either … or … in pictures, we draw a complete blank. There just seems no way of doing it.

Words don’t work either; they represent by convention (see terminology). Same words in same context mean the same thing to different people

All other kinds of representation all depend on mental representations in order to work

Mental representations are either naturalistic or conceptual

  • naturalistic → matter of correlation, “these spots mean measles”, spots are a reliable indicator of measles
  • conceptual → “this read light means stop”, matter of convention, connection is arbitrary

Related thought experiments: Brains in a Vat, Twin Earth Argument