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[Wittrs] Whether "cognitive maps" is a meaningful expression [message #866] Sat, 05 September 2009 12:49 Go to next message
Sean Wilson is currently offline  Sean Wilson
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1. When something new is learned, there is quite frequently a new way of speaking about it that borrows something from the existing lexicon. The sense of the new terms are different from the old, but bear family resemblance. Consider Wittgenstein's use of the term "grammar." Consider what Ben Franklin did to the vocabulary of electricity ("currents," etc.). Franklin borrowed water-grammar for electricity because he had thought there was some thin liquid-like substance at its atomic core.

Although these forms of expressions become entrenched and take on their own meaning, one might think of them in their baptized state as being resemblance terms. Wittgenstein's grammar is "grammar-like." Electricity is current-like. In this sense, "cognitive maps" are map-like (which is why they say cognitive beforehand).

If you are presenting any objection that Wittgenstein might ever have made -- which I doubt you are -- it would be closer to early Wittgenstein. Because what you are essentially saying is that if a term cannot be seen or verified, it cannot really exist. What you are really saying is that "cognitive map" is a reification. Of course, it could be if one had asserted a real map there. But it is not if all that is asserted is that something map-like is there. Something at a atomistic level that functions as a map would for that sort of organism. I bet you there is a way of talking that says ants have some sort of mapping system.

The idea of a map is not limited to is exemplar. If so, we'd be back to the picture theory of meaning. What "map" means is what it does in the lexicon, which is a function of the anthropology of language as well as its cognition.

2. You are now moderated. If you choose to exit like that other guy did (Jones), good luck with everything. You are, of course, welcome to stay. Expect moderated messages to turn around in 24 hrs.

Regards and thanks.

Dr. Sean Wilson, Esq.
Assistant Professor
Wright State University

From: Glen Sizemore <gmsizemore2@yahoo.com>
To: wittrs@freelists.org
Sent: Friday, September 4, 2009 5:51:16 PM
Subject: [Wittrs] Re: When is "brain talk" really dualism?

I would say that PI signals the first real breakthrough in philosophy in millenia. Skinner did it better, of course, since the science that he developed (the experimental analysis of behavior), in concert with the development of his philosophy (radical behaviorism), was all about stuff that Wittgenstein hinted at but could not, or did not care to, develop in detail. I would say, further, that the sort of philosophy developed by Wittgenstein (and, of course, more so, Skinner), serves as the quintessential interface between science and philosophy. As Machado, Lourenco, and Silva (MLS; 2000) argue, science is best seen in terms of an "epistemic triangle" with facts, concepts, and theories at the vertices.

It is, of course, the role of conceptual analysis that is at odds with widespread misconceptions concerning the nature of science and its interface (or alleged lack thereof) with philosophy. Though MLS were primarily concerned with psychology, the same arguments can be made with respect to all of science, and the place to start a conceptual analysis is simply by examining usage. This is especially critical when the concepts to be analyzed are couched in ordinary-language terms. Take, for example, the notion of "cognitive maps." Animals (and humans) are often said to get from one place to another, by consulting "maps" in their minds or brains. But does this make sense? What might the much maligned (and misunderstood, as I am beginning to see by reading the "scholarship" that gets posted on this group) LW have to say about that? Let me play the role of Wittgenstein here: He might say: The animal gets from point A to point B by following a "mental" map,
but the evidence is simply that the animal goes from point A to point B. Say that I get somewhere by following an actual (not a "mental") map. I hold it in my hands, I look at it. Further, I have, no doubt, been specifically trained in the conventions of map following; the top of the map is North, the bottom South, etc. I might even, if I am currently going East, turn the map sideways so that the top of the map is now East, and left and right turns correspond to my actual left and right. But first, an immediate problem presents itself; with what eyes do I view this map? That aside, a deeper problem remains. Say my map is faulty, but I manage, nonetheless, to arrive at my destination. "How did you get here?" I am asked. "I followed this map" I say. But upon examining the map, my interlocutor says, "But see, the map is wrong! It is an old map that was corrected two years ago! I don't know how you managed to get here, but nonetheless, I have a bottle of
'Uncle Sean's Brain Script' whiskey for you, my friend! You deserve it! You must have followed the map incorrectly but your errors somehow cancelled each other out or something!" Now, of course, the "correctness" or "incorrectness" of the map can be validated - perhaps my interloctor takes me up in his or her hot-air balloon and shows me that the map is incorrect. But now, let's say, that in answer to the question of how I arrived there, I say, "I have a map in my memory and I followed that map." How do we ascertain that the map was correct? Perhaps it was correct, and we followed it incorrectly, but somehow managed to get there. Or perhaps it was incorrect, and we followed it incorrectly, and managed to arrive nonetheless. In the case of a literal, ordinary-language usage of "map," this is not a problem, since there is a way to ascertain the case.

Sound familiar? It should. At this point, I should quote the Big LW, but I have not read the the PI five times, as a "scholar" like Urner should have, in order to "pass his qualifying examination." But I remember a passage in which W. is talking about something like remembering a telephone number. If someone claims that "this is the number" and we decide to check, we consult the phone book. But can we do the same if the person claims "I have consulted my memory of the phone number, and I assure you that it is correct." The err...grammars, of these locutions are different and incommensurate.

[Updated on: Sat, 12 September 2009 11:59] by Moderator

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[Wittrs] Mental Maps (Was Re: When is "brain talk" really dualism?) [message #874 is a reply to message #866] Sat, 05 September 2009 21:25 Go to previous message
SWMirsky is currently offline  SWMirsky
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--- In Wittrs@yahoogroups.com, Glen Sizemore <gmsizemore2@...> wrote:

Glen writes: "Take, for example, the notion of 'cognitive maps'.
Animals (and humans) are often said to get from one place to another, by
consulting 'maps' in their minds or brains. But does this make sense?"

I think there's a basic misunderstanding in the above. We can certainly speak of mapping in brains without any notion of "consulting" a map as part of how we "use" it. My wife and I have a standing joke. She is abysmally bad when it comes to figuring out where she is and gets lost very easily. Her solution is to learn landmarks or, absent this, to ask lots of people. I, on the other hand, can generally find my way around in new places. I just need a general idea of what the lay of the land looks like. I describe this to her as "having a map in my head".

Of course I don't literally mean I have one folded up inside or even a perfect picture I can conjure up at will of a given area with all the details, etc. I can visualize a general, somewhat vague picture if I've seen maps of the area before (or envision one just from a general knowledge of the area). I can recollect important details of such mental maps at times, too, but I certainly don't have anything like a real map in my head. I would say that I have a better ability than she does to visualize physical space and to remember important aspects of it. My experience of doing this leads me to say that it isn't mere behavior at work either. When we're driving in a new area and, after getting my bearings vis a vis some general sense of where we are, I can get us to where we need to be by doing just this kind of visualization. Nor do I think this is especially unique. Many, I'm sure, have this ability as two of my three children seem to have good sense of directions, too. But one of them does not. She takes after her mother.

So speaking of this phenomenon is certainly one way we may speak of mental mapping, a way that is certainly not consistent with a classical behaviorist account since mental imaging, at least in my own experience, is an integral part of it. On the other hand, perhaps Glen or Girardo would want to subsume this within the expanded behaviorism they seem to be defending here. But that aside, the mere fact of this phenomenon suggests that speaking of maps in one's head is not a matter of applying the wrong grammar. It's just a different grammar.

But, of course, when we speak about mapping or picturing in our brains from the standpoint of what is called cognitive science or even neuroscience, we are not referring to this mental imaging and retention re: particular physical layouts. Something less explicit, less accessible to the conscious mind is actually at issue in such a case, i.e., the proposal that the way (or part of the way) the mind works is by developing various structured representations of the stimuli being received through one's sensory apparatus.

Thus, on such a view (though probably not to our resident behaviorists) it makes sense to theorize (and this is only theory, of course, because we cannot actually access this kind of process) that, for mental features like awareness, intentionality, selfhood, etc., to occur there has to be some complex system of representations (sensory signals becoming brain signals) which are integrated with a host of others (incoming and previously received) to form various linked structural pictures of what is.

These would presumably include mappings of different aspects of the world at large, of particular types of sensory inputs, of the elements we take to be the self in ourselves and, of course, various cross combinations and maps of other maps.

This notion of mapping or picturing is, as noted, entirely theoretical, being one proposed way in which we might be able to explain how the brain manages to produce the totality of our experiences (being a subject).

So neither idea about mapping involves any notion that we are talking about the kinds of maps we sometimes make or buy in a store and carry around with us to make reference to when someone, like my wife, gets lost. Given this, there is no grammatical confusion to note, only a realization that our words, including words like "map" or "mapping", have more than one use and that, merely because we sometimes use "map" to refer to a folded piece of paper with various lines on it with certain established conventions for reading it, we are supposing that we doing the same thing when we speak of mapping in our heads.

By the way and for what it's worth, my wife can't read maps in her hands anymore than she can in her head so there does seem to be a difference in the cognitive functions of her brain and mine in this regard.


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