Robert Cummins

Robert Cummins is Professor of Philosophy at University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign.

  • Representations, Targets, and Attitudes

    Representations, Targets, and Attitudes

    Robert Cummins

    What is it for something in the mind to represent something? Distinguished philosopher of mind Robert Cummins looks at the familiar problems of representation theory (what information is represented in the mind, what form mental representation takes, how representational schemes are implemented in the brain, what it is for one thing to represent another) from an unprecedented angle. Instead of following the usual procedure of defending a version of "indicator" semantics, Cummins begins with a theory of representational error and uses this theory to constrain the account of representational content. Thus, the problem of misrepresentation, which plagues all other accounts, is avoided at the start. Cummins shows that representational error can be accommodated only if the content of a representation is intrinsic—independent of its use and causal role in the system that employs it.

    Cummins's theory of error is based on the teleological idea of a "target," an intentional concept but one that differs importantly from that of an ordinary intentional object. Using this notion he offers a schematic theory of representation and an account of propositional attitudes that takes exception with some popular positions, such as conceptual role semantics, Fodor's representational theory of the mind, and Putnam's twin-earth examples.

    A Bradford Book.

    Representation and Mind series

    • Hardcover $34.00
  • Philosophy and AI

    Philosophy and AI

    Essays at the Interface

    Robert Cummins and John L. Pollock

    Philosophy and AI presents invited contributions that focus on the different perspectives and techniques that philosophy and AI bring to the theory of rationality.

    Philosophers have found that the concepts and technology of artificial intelligence provide useful ways to test theories of knowledge and reason. Conversely, researchers in artificial intelligence, noting that the production of information-processing systems require a prior theory of rationality, have begun writing philosophy. Philosophy and AI presents invited contributions that focus on the different perspectives and techniques that philosophy and AI bring to the theory of rationality.

    A Bradford Book

    • Hardcover $40.00
    • Paperback $35.00
  • Meaning and Mental Representation

    Meaning and Mental Representation

    Robert Cummins

    In this provocative study, Robert Cummins takes on philosophers, both old and new, who pursue the question of mental representation as an abstraction, apart from the constraints of any particular theory or framework. Cummins asserts that mental representation is, in fact, a problem in the philosophy of science, a theoretical assumption that serves different explanatory roles within the different contexts of commonsense or "folk" psychology, orthodox computation, connectionism, or neuroscience.

    Cummins looks at existing and traditional accounts by Locke, Fodor, Dretske, Millikan, and others of the nature of mental representation and evaluates these accounts within the context of orthodox computational theories of cognition. He proposes that popular accounts of mental representation are inconsistent with the empirical assumptions of these models, which require an account of representation like that involved in mathematical modeling. In the final chapter he considers how mental representation might look in a connectionist context.

    A Bradford Book.

    • Hardcover $25.00
    • Paperback $20.00
  • The Nature of Psychological Explanation

    The Nature of Psychological Explanation

    Robert Cummins

    In exploring the nature of psychological explanation, this book looks at how psychologists theorize about the human ability to calculate, to speak a language and the like. It shows how good theorizing explains or tries to explain such abilities as perception and cognition. It recasts the familiar explanations of "intelligence" and "cognitive capacity" as put forward by philosophers such as Fodor, Dennett, and others in terms of a theory of explanation that makes established doctrine more intelligible to professionals and their students. In particular, the book shows that vestigial adherence to the positivists' D-N model has distorted the view of philosophers of science about what psychologists (and biologists) do and has masked the real nature of explanation. Major sections in the book cover Analysis and Subsumption; Functional Analysis; Understanding Cognitive Capacities; and Historical Reflections.

    A Bradford Book.

    • Hardcover $27.50
    • Paperback $30.00