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2. Valent Representation

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Yesterday I promised to give an account of valent representation. This is perhaps the core original idea of the book (though it has precedents in Ruth Millikan’s ‘pushmi-pullyu’ representations (1995) and Andy Clark’s ‘action oriented representations’ (1997)). Essentially, valent representation is representation in a valent (i.e. positive or negative) manner. What makes it valent is that the representational activity automatically triggers a bodily response aimed at increasing or decreasing the presence of the object. The theory is still representationalist in the sense that there is an inner state or activity that stands in for the object. But at the same time it incorporates embodied views on cognition, since the response is playing an indispensable role in the activity of representation. Valent representations are handy for satisfying various desiderata we have for emotions. They are factive states (tracking the condition of the world), but simultaneously evaluative in character, as well as intrinsically motivational, just like emotions. Yet while valent representation can conveniently combine different aspects of emotions, I motivate the existence of this type of representation independently of the attempt to make sense of emotions. I argue that we should believe in valent representation because it resolves the problem of how mental states acquire content. The basic problem of mental content is how some activity inside the head could be about a specific kind of object in the world. Structural resemblances may well be involved, but resemblance is too cheap to fix objects precisely. Thus a lot of philosophers have thought that some kind of pragmatic interaction with the object could fix things precisely. Teleosemantic views are one approach (e.g. Dretske, Millikan). Success semantics is another. Success semantics is roughly the claim that what a mental state is about, is whatever object makes actions based on that state successful. In this sense,. . .

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News source: Philosophy of Mind – The Brains Blog

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