Book Chapter

The Problem of Representation


Wheeler M (2010) The Problem of Representation. In: Gallagher S & Schmicking D (eds.) Handbook of Phenomenology and Cognitive Science. Berlin: Springer, pp. 318-336.

As we shall be thinking of it here, to engage in representational explanation is to explain behaviour by invoking internal states with content (i.e. internal states that encode meaning or bear information). Thus one may account for why Voldemort triumphantly parades Harry's limp body in front of the assembled fighters at Hogwarts by explaining that Voldemort possesses a behaviour-influencing inner state that bears the (as it happens) inaccurate content, 'Harry is dead'. Here, then, is how things look to the representationalist. Intelligent agents take the world to be a certain way. One animal may represent a second animal as a potential dinner, while the second may represent the first as a threat. Of course, as Voldemort discovered to his detriment, the world need not be the way agents take it to be. Philosophers often develop this thought by saying that where we encounter an agent that is genuinely capable of representing the world, there already exists the possibility of that agent misrepresenting the world.

Publication date31/12/2010
Publisher URL…81-2646-0/page/1
Place of publicationBerlin