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Cognitive Models Are Distinguished by Content, Not Format

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022


Cognitive scientists often describe the mind as constructing and using models of aspects of the environment, but it is not obvious what makes something a model as opposed to a mere representation. The leading proposal among philosophers is that models are structural representations and are therefore distinguished by their format. However, an alternative conception is suggested by recent work in artificial intelligence, on which models are distinguished by their content. This article outlines the two conceptions and argues for the content conception, against the standard philosophical view.

Research Article
Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

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Many thanks to Nick Shea, James Stazicker, Matt Crosby, Henry Shevlin, and the other members of the Kinds of Intelligence reading group at Cambridge for comments and discussion and to Eivinas Butkus for getting me started on this topic. Many thanks also to two anonymous reviewers for this journal, for exceptionally helpful comments that resulted in a much-improved final version.


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