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Week 1: The Cognitive Sandwich
Quote from Susan Hurley (2001) "Perception and action: Alternative views", Synthese129:3-40
1. THE CLASSICAL SANDWICH AND HOW TO RESIST IT
A familiar mainstream view of the mind has three aspects.
First, perception and action are seen as separate from each other and as peripheral.
Second, thought or cognition is seen as the central core of the mind. The mind decomposes vertically into modules: cognition interfaces between perception and action. Perception and action are not just separate from one another, but also separate from the higher processes of cognition. The mind is a kind of sandwich, and cognition is the filling.
Third, not only is cognition central and distinct from peripheral sensorimotor processes, but the center is classical 'at the right level of description'. A cluster of related properties of cognition - compositionality, systematicity, productivity, binding, etc., - are to be explained classically: in terms of processes involving symbols and recombinant syntactic structure. The subpersonal processes that explain the conceptual structure of thought mirror that structure syntactically. There is an isomorphism between contents and vehicles, or what Davies calls causal systematicity (see and cf. Davies 1991a; Fodor and Pylyshyn 1988, etc). The mental sandwich has a classical filling. Nonclassical connectionist networks that lack context-free symbols and syntactic structure may be apt for modelling peripheral, sensorimotor functions. But they cannot explain the distinctive structural properties of thought at the level of cognitive significance. They could at best model the brain's distributed implementation of classical cognitive processing.
There are several ways to resist the classical sandwich view of the mind. Working backward, we can ask, first: Is cognitive processing really classical? Second: Is cognitive processing really central and distinct from sensorimotor processing? And third: Are perception and action really peripheral and separate from one another?
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