Explaining the reified notion of representation from a linguistic perspective

Farid Zahnoun

pp. 79-96

Despite the growing popularity of nonrepresentationalist approaches to cognition, and especially of those coming from the enactivist corner, positing internal representations is still the order of the day in mainstream cognitive science. Indeed, the idea that we have to invoke internal content-carrying, thing-like entities to account for the workings of mind and cognition proves to be particularly resilient. In this paper, my aim is to explain at least partially where this resilience of the reified notion of representation comes from. What I want to show is that, crucially, positing inner representations isn't so much warranted by the scientific practice itself – as is commonly held – but much more motivated by nonscientific and pre-theoretical elements that largely stem from, what I will call, linguistic contingencies. Otherwise put, much of what makes the reified notion of representation an attractive posit can be explained, not by the science, but by the way we, including cognitive scientists, speak. What I want to do here, then, is first, rehearse what reification means in the context of representationalism (and why it is problematic) and, second, specify which linguistic contingencies can (partially) account for why the idea of positing representations remains for many not only a viable option, but an indispensability for anyone interested in explanations of mind and cognition.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/s11097-018-9603-x

Full citation:

Zahnoun, F. (2020). Explaining the reified notion of representation from a linguistic perspective. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 19 (1), pp. 79-96.

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