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Paul Prae 6th of October, 2011 PHIL 3550 with Jagnow

Small Essay: A Clear Exposition and Critical Discussion of the Position Held by Ramsey, Stich, and Garon in Their Paper, Connectionism, Eliminativism, and the Future of Folk Psychology.

[Notes: -I will refer to Ramsey, Stich, and Garon collectively as Ramsey. I will refer to this Ramsey as a single person so the paper flows naturally. -Due to the unfortunate length constraints on this paper, I will assume the reader is familiar with the concepts and history of both folk psychology and connectionism and also with the definition of eliminativism.]

The argument: If the particular theory of connectionism defined in Ramseys paper is found to correctly model how the human brain undergoes cognitive processes, then the theory of folk psychology will have to be rejected i.e. an eliminativist conclusion must be drawn against folk psychology. This will occur because of the ontologically radical differences in these two theories. I will begin by stating how Ramsey characterizes folk psychology. Ramsey first makes it clear that folk psychology must be recognized as a theory. He also states that the concepts of propositional attitudes must be assumed to be a factual basis for the theory. In what seems to be an early attempt to weaken its validity, Ramsey mentions that it is likely that folk psychology will share the same demise as many folk theories and will be replaced by an empirical science. He states that psychology, the science, exists because folk psychology is not complete. Ramsey considers this his first premise in defense of his eliminativist argument saying that propositional attitudes are in need of a more applicable and thorough substitute. Ramsey proposes that folk psychology is bound to propositional modularity. He objectively defines propositional attitudes to meet the following requirements: they are individually separate and distinct from one another, they can be recognized through their meaning, they can be effected by and created from each other, and they influence our actions. Ramsey labels these requirements as the tenets of propositional modularity. For his argument, it is first important to note that the semantic aspects of propositional attitudes leave

them to be easily generalized with much room for variability. As he says, they are projectable predicates. This is obvious when propositional attitudes are transcribed to sentential predicates and logically manipulated. He stresses that propositional attitudes each have a meaning that is obvious, portable, and law-like. Ramsey further supports this idea of propositional modularity by showing that propositional attitudes are functionally discrete states. He does this using several positive examples. Generically, Ramsey describes a situation in which a person believes x and then, unknowingly, forgets x but nothing else. This person then goes through a series of actions that would have been different had the person remembered that belief x. So, even though the person had a long standing belief, if it is not taken into account, the person still proceeds acting based on whatever the person does remember. x is therefor functionally discrete from the rest of the propositional attitudes that exist for this person. The last characteristic of propositional modularity that Ramsey exemplifies is that of the causal relationships between propositional attitudes. His examples follow a particular format. Call x, y, and z propositional attitudes that exist for a person. He says that if only x can cause z or (inclusive) y can cause z, then, if z happens, we cannot determine which of x, y, or (exclusive) x & y caused z. We do, though, know that it was one of those that did cause z or else z would not have happened. If it is the case where x happens without y or vice versa then we do know that one of these attitudes caused z without the other. This shows that

propositional attitudes can effect other propositional attitudes independent of each other. Ramsey concludes his defining of folk psychology via propositional modularity by showing how common models of cognitive processes, such as knowledge representation and retrieval, pre-circa connectionism, congeal well with his three characteristics sketched out above. Next, I will make clear the connectionist hypotheses Ramsey is referring to in his eliminativist argument. I will now present the first of three properties that may distinguish the connectionism intended for Ramseys argument from others that exist. The first of these properties requires that the information contained in a connectionist system be widely distributed. This is in great contrast to a cognitive model that is based off of the concepts in propositional attitudes where, for example, a belief may be represented by a single functionally distinct node or group of nodes in a network graph. In this case, a belief is easily localized. In the connectionist networks that Ramsey is considering (from here on simply called the connectionist network), it is not possible to localize any sort of propositional representation outside of what is provided to the system as input. This means that it is not conceivable, to Ramsey, that the connectionist network could ever be, or at least be known to be, in a single state that represents a particular proposition. For the next property, Ramsey states that we have no way of conceiving the symbolic significance of the invisible units in the connectionist network. As was stated in the last paragraph, the cognitive models that are able to represent

a propositional attitude can be examined in a static state. In this state, the individual proposition cannot only be recognized but can, in particular, be recognized and viewed as a symbol with potential for interacting with other propositional symbols. Because the connectionist network determines propositions by dynamically interactive progressions of signals with weights and biases, there is no way for such a system to consist of propositional symbols. Ramsey therefor labels the connectionist network as subsymbolic. This means, within the connectionist network, that the representation and processing of propositions is not discrete and happens simultaneously across multiple units over a certain amount of time. The result of these attributes of this second property is that Ramsey has announced yet another fundamental difference between connectionist theories and folk psychology. The third property distinguishes to the reader what the connectionist network really is (in a more abstract sense). Ramsey wants to make sure it is clear that the connectionist network is not simply an application or employment of some cognitive model but it, itself, is a cognitive model. Just as the propositional attitudes can be represented in a interactive semantic network, propositions can be processed and determined via the connectionist network. In this sense, the connectionist network is a model in direct competition with other cognitive models. Here the winner would be the one that could process input the same way our brain and mind could while resulting in the same output. Ramsey ends his discussion of the third property by using his eliminativist approach in

regards to these competing models. He concludes that if connectionism is a valid cognitive model of the psychological processes of a human, then all other cognitive models must be wrong. This would mean that any model that is based off of propositional attitudes and folk psychology is wrong. I will now finish my explication of Ramseys argument by describing a particular connectionist model of memory that Ramsey constructed. Because I do not have his diagrams at hand, I will have to be more abstract when describing his approach. Ramsey discusses two connectionist networks that have the three properties mentioned above and some standard components that would be expected in a typical connectionist system. These are presented as connectionist networks A and B. He then presents two sets of propositions, one set for each A and B. The sets of each intersect with a total of 16 propositions. The only difference between the two sets is that the set for B has one more proposition in it. Both networks are evolved so that they map each proposition from their respective set (as an input of boolean values) to its correct truth value (as a single output value). It turns out that both of these networks successfully process these propositions but, because of the added proposition in network Bs proposition set, they both do so in dramatically different ways. And in either case, neither way is functionally discrete. Ramsey uses this to contrast how the addition of a new proposition in a traditional folk psychology model would be semantically interpretable and would not cause such a dramatic change in the functioning of

the system. Through the use of these constructs, Ramsey excites the fundamental difference between a connectionist model and one of folk psychology. This last reiteration of the polar dissimilarity between the two theories under question ends my explication of Ramseys argument. For my conclusion I will quickly discuss the plausibility of Ramseys argument. For this task, I will summarize Objection 2 from Section 6 of the paper for it seems to be the most formidable objection. It seems very reasonable to me that the connectionist networks mentioned in the paper may have an underlying functionally discrete representation of each proposition and its value. If this is found true, then Ramsey has failed to distinguish propositional modularity from his connectionist theory. It is known that once a connectionist network stops learning, its weight and bias values remain static. Given a certain input, the network will behave in the same way every time. Though it is complicated, it is possible that this behavior could be mapped to a particular propositional attitude. This would then mean that a connectionist network is just another cognitive model that is implementing the theories behind folk psychology. This, unfortunately for Ramsey, is precisely the opposite of what he desires to conclude.