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Revision as of 11:47, 31 May 2019
→‎Connectionism vs. computationalism debate
Despite these differences, some theorists have proposed that the connectionist architecture is simply the manner in which organic brains happen to implement the symbol-manipulation system. This is logically possible, as it is well known that connectionist models can implement symbol-manipulation systems of the kind used in computationalist models,{{Citation needed|date=February 2011}} as indeed they must be able if they are to explain the human ability to perform symbol-manipulation tasks. But the debate rests on whether this symbol manipulation forms the foundation of cognition in general, so this is not a potential vindication of computationalism. Nonetheless, computational descriptions may be helpful high-level descriptions of cognition of logic, for example.
The debate was largely centred on logical arguments about whether connectionist networks could produce the syntactic structure observed in this sort of reasoning. This was later achieved,{{Citation needed|date=February 2011}} although using processes unlikely to be possible in the brain,{{Citation needed|date=February 2011}} thus the debate persisted. {{As of | 2016}}, progress in neurophysiology and general advances in the understanding of neural networks have led to the successful modelling of a great many of these early problems, and the debate about fundamental cognition has, thus, largely been decided among neuroscientists in favour of connectionism.{{citation needed|date=March 2012}} However, these fairly recent developments have yet to reach consensus acceptance among those working in other fields, such as psychology or philosophy of mind.
Part of the appeal of computational descriptions is that they are relatively easy to interpret, and thus may be seen as contributing to our understanding of particular mental processes, whereas connectionist models are in general more opaque, to the extent that they may be describable only in very general terms (such as specifying the learning algorithm, the number of units, etc.), or in unhelpfully low-level terms. In this sense connectionist models may instantiate, and thereby provide evidence for, a broad theory of cognition (i.e., connectionism), without representing a helpful theory of the particular process that is being modelled. In this sense the debate might be considered as to some extent reflecting a mere difference in the level of analysis in which particular theories are framed.
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