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Representation in dynamical and embodied cognition

(2002) Keijzer, Fred

The move toward a dynamical and embodied understanding of cognitive processes initiated a
debate about the usefulness of the notion of representation for cognitive science. The debate
started when some proponents of a dynamical and embodied approach argued that the use of
representations could be discarded in many circumstances. This remained a minority view
however and there is now a tendency to shove this critique of the usefulness of
representations aside as a non-issue for a dynamical and situated approach to cognition
(Clark, 1997b; Bechtel, 1998). In opposition, I will argue that the representation issue is far
from settled, and instead forms the kernel of an important conceptual shift between traditional
cognitive science and a dynamical and embodied approach. This will be done by making
explicit the key features of representation in traditional cognitive science and by arguing that
the representation-like entities that come to the fore in a dynamical and embodied approach
are significantly different from the traditional notion of representation. This difference
warrants a change of terminology to signal an important change in meaning.


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