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Old 05-17-2019, 05:57 PM
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wolfpup is offline
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Originally Posted by RaftPeople View Post
Which cognitive processes?

What is a symbol?

(note: your linked page reminds us that the terms computation and symbol are not well defined).
A "symbol" is a token -- an abstract unit of information -- that in itself bears no relationship to the thing it is supposed to represent, just exactly like the bits and bytes in a computer. The relationship to meaningful things -- the semantics -- is established by the logic of syntactical operations that are performed on it, just exactly like the operations of a computer program.

"Which cognitive processes?" Probably many, but perhaps not all. Mental image processing is a frequently cited basis of discussion. Here the distinction is whether we remember images in the visual manner of a Polaroid photograph, where it has to be processed through the visual cortex, or whether we render them symbolically, like a JPEG file, and subsequently process them via what Fodor has called "the language of thought".

This excerpt from Fodor's The Mind Doesn't Work That Way might be of interest:
The cognitive science that started fifty years or so ago more or less explicitly had as its defining project to examine the theory—largely owing to Turing—that cognitive mental processes are operations defined on syntactically structured mental representations that are much like sentences. The proposal was to use the hypothesis that mental representations are language-like to explain certain pervasive and characteristic properties of cognitive states and processes; for example, that the former are productive and systematic, and that the latter are, by and large, truth preserving. Roughly, the systematicity and productivity of thought were supposed to trace back to the compositionality of mental representations, which in turn depends on the constituent structure of their syntax. The tendency of mental processes to preserve truth was to be explained by the hypothesis that they are computations, where, by stipulation a computation is a causal process that is syntactically driven.

I think that the attempt to explain the productivity and systematicity of mental states by appealing to the compositionality of mental representations has been something like an unmitigated success ...