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The Architecture of CognitionRethinking Fodor and Pylyshyn's Systematicity Challenge$
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Paco Calvo and John Symons

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780262027236

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262027236.001.0001

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PDP and Symbol Manipulation

PDP and Symbol Manipulation

What's Been Learned Since 1986?

(p.103) 4 PDP and Symbol Manipulation
The Architecture of Cognition

Gary Marcus

The MIT Press

One of the most fascinating ideas ever to emerge from cognitive science was the notion that the mind, unlike digital computers, might proceed entirely without recourse to symbol-manipulation. But how tenable is that intriguing idea, 25 years later? Fodor and Pylyshyn challenged it immediately; I argue that so-called “eliminative connectionism” never made as much progress as its authors might hope. Instead, there continues to be good reason to believe that minds have, among other capacities, a neurally realized way of representing symbols, variables, and operations over variables, and have the resources to distinguish types from tokens and to represent ordered pairs and structured units. After a quarter century, advocates of eliminative connectionism have yet to mount an adequate alternative. A more profitable endeavor might be to figure out how to use networks of neurons in systems that unify symbols and statistics, rather than needlessly treating them as antithetical.

Keywords:   Symbol manipulation, Eliminative connectionism, Syntactic trees

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