<philosophy of mind> also known as conceptual role semantics or CRS. The meaning of a representation is the role of that representation in the cognitive life of the agent. It is an extension of the well known theory of meaning as it supplements external use by including the role of a symbol inside a computer or a brain.
(The following discussion is published in The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
According to Conceptual Role Semantics (CRS) [i.e. functional role semantics], the meaning of a representation is the role of that representation in the cognitive life of the agent, e.g. in perception, thought and decision-making. It is an extension of the well known use theory of meaning, according to which the meaning of a word is its use in communication and more generally, in social interaction. CRS supplements external use by including the role of a symbol inside a computer or a brain. The uses appealed to are not just actual, but also counterfactual: not only what effects a thought does have, but what effects it would have had if stimuli or other states had differed.
The view has arisen separately in philosophy (where it is sometimes called "inferential," or "functional" role semantics) and in cognitive science (where it is sometimes called "procedural semantics"). The source of the view is Wittgenstein (1953) and Sellars, but the source in contemporary philosophy is a series of papers by Harman (see his 1987) and Field (1977). Other proponents in philosophy have included Block, Horwich, Loar, McGinn and Peacocke (1992). In cognitive science, they include Woods (1981) and Miller and Johnson-Laird (1976). (See references in Block, 1987.)
Linguistic and Metaphysical Semantics
Motivations for Functional Role Semantics
Two-factor Conceptual Role Semantics
Criticisms of CRS
Framework, Not Theory
Ned Block <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Block, N. (forthcoming) Conceptual Role Semantics
Chris Eliasmith - [Dictionary of Philosophy of Mind] Homepage
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