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Hardcover | $45.00 Short | £31.95 | ISBN: 9780262112598 | 296 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 15 illus.| February 2001

Representation and Behavior


Representation is a fundamental concept within cognitive science. Most often, representations are interpreted as mental representations, theoretical entities that are the bearers of meaning and the source of intentionality. This approach views representation as the internal reflection of external circumstances—that is, as the end station of sensory processes that translate the environmental state of affairs into a set of mental representations.

Fred Keijzer stresses, however, that representations are also the starting point for a set of processes that lead back to the external environment. They are used as theoretical components within an explanation of a person's outwardly visible behavior. In this book Keijzer investigates the usefulness of representation for behavioral explanation, irrespective of mental issues. Viewing representation solely in terms of its contribution to explaining behavior allows him to build a serious case for a nonrepresentational approach and to evaluate representation's role in cognitive science.

Keijzer provides a reconstruction of cognitive science's implicit representational explanation of behavior, which he calls Agent Theory (AT). AT is the use of mind as a subpersonal mechanism of behavior. He proposes an alternative to AT called Behavioral Systems Theory (BST), which explains behavior as the result of interactions between an organism and its environment. Keijzer compares BST to related work in the biology of cognition, in the building of animal-like robots, and in dynamical systems theory. Most important, he extends BST to the difficult issue of anticipatory behavior through an analogy between behavior and morphogenesis, the process by which a multicellular body develops.

About the Author

Fred Keijzer is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Groningen University, the Netherlands.


"... an extremely compelling vision...." —William BechtelContemporary Psychology


“In Representation and Behavior, Fred Keijzer first carefully dissects, and then critically challenges, one of the deep mainstays of cognitive scientific explanation: the appeal to internal representations in the explanation of intelligent behavior. Keijzer’s treatment is fair and balanced, yet pulls no punches. A treat for anyone who wonders about the likely shape of mature science of the mind.”
Andy Clark, Professor of Philosophy and Cognitive Science, University of Sussex, UK

“This book presents a brave and successful attempt to critique the classical approach to the understanding of behavior. I know of no other published work that is as effective in presenting a tight, well-thought-out, and readable analysis of the fundamental weaknesses of the classical framework.”
Tim Smithers, Faculty of Engineering, University of Navarra, and Centro de Estudios e Investigaciones TĂ©cnicas de Gipuzkoa (CEIT), Spain

“A major contribution to some of the most interesting and fractious debates in contemporary philosophy of cognitive science. Keijzer adds new levels of depth and rigor to contemporary thinking about the nature and role of representation in cognition conceived as a dynamical phenomenon.”
 —Tim van Gelder, Australian Thinking Skills Institute

“Can we do away with representations? In his bold and elegant book, Fred Keijzer makes an innovative and compelling argument by starting not with the mind itself, but with basic behavior, and ending with an extended dynamic systems theory. This is a very good book indeed and an important contribution to the growing interest in embodied cognition.”
Esther Thelen, Professor, Psychology and Cognitive Science, Indiana University

“A careful and critical comparison of representational and interactionist approaches to the generation of behavior. If you want to understand and current controversies in cognitive science, read this book.”
Randall D. Beer, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Case Western Reserve University