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Notes for the NYU Language and Mind Seminar: Please do not quote (I reserve the right to change my mind!) Visual Indexes and Nonconceptual Reference 1

By Zenon Pylyshyn and Cognitive Science


First a little historical background Just as Moliere's Monsieur Jourdain discovered that he had been speaking prose all his life without realizing it, so I discovered not too long ago that what I had been doing without realizing it occupied a position in the philosophical landscape. It turns out that coming from a very different perspective I had taken a position on a set of questions that philosophers had been worrying about for much of the past 30 or more years. My clandestine involvement in philosophical issues began when a computer science colleague and I were trying to build a model of geometrical reasoning that would draw a diagram and notice things in the diagram as it drew it [1]. One problem we found we had to face was that if the system discovered a right angle it had no way to tell whether this was the intersection of certain lines it had drawn earlier, and if so which particular lines. Moreover, the model had no way of telling whether this particular right angle was identical to some bit of drawing it had earlier encountered and represented as, say, the base of a particular triangle. There was, in other words, no way to determined the identity of an element (I will use this neutral term until I discuss what qualifies as an element) at two different times if it was represented differently at those times. This led to some speculation about the need for what we called a “finger ” that could be placed at a particular element of interest and that could be used to identify it as particular token thing (the way yo

Year: 2011
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