Robert Cummins
Philosophy of Mind
Philosophy of Psychology and Biology

E-mail: rowbear.cummins@gmail.com

Recent Talks:
    North Carolina State
    University of Colorado
    University of Wyoming
    Wichita State

                                                                        Research Interests


I have long investigated alternatives to language-like schemes of mental representation. It is motivated by the idea that perception and cognition require representations that are subject to meaningful structural transformations--isomorphs, essentially, of representationl targets rather than terms that refer to them. The work is constrained also by the idea that representation in the brain is primarily in the form of activation patterns (short term)  and patterns of synaptic weights (long term).

Representation, as I am construing it, should be distinguished from indication. Indication--the sort of thing "idiot lights" do in your car--is arbitrary, transitive and source dependent. The information is all in who shouts, not in what is shouted. Indicator signals are therefore not subject to meaningful structural transformations. They say, "my target is in my receptive field" but say nothing about what the target is like. Representations re-present structural features of their targets, but say nothing about whether they are present or absent.

Some Related Publications:

"Meaning and Content in Cognitive Science (with Martin Roth). In Prospects for Meaning, Richard Schantz, ed.  de Gruyter, Berlin & New York, 2012. (http://www.degruyter.com/view/product/34189)

"Representation and Indication," (with Pierre Poirier) in Representation in Mind. Hugh Clapin, Phillip Staines and Peter Slezak, eds. Elsevier (2004), pp. 21-40.

“Truth and meaning":  in Joseph Keim-Campbell, Michael O'Rourke and David Shier (eds.), Meaning and Truth: Investigations in Philosophical Semantics. Seven Bridges Press, 2002, pp. 175-197. (pdf)

“Systematicity and the Cognition of Structured Domains,” with Jim Blackmon, David Byrd, Pierre Poirier, Martin Roth and Georg Schwarz. Journal of Philosophy, 98, 2001, pp. 167-185. (pdf)

"Systematicity," Journal of Philosophy. 93: 591-614, 1996. (pdf)


After a long absence from the functions literature ("Functional Analysis" was written in 1968 and published in 1975), I have returned to a consideration of the relationship between function and evolution and to the role of functional analysis in science.

Some Related Publications:

"Neuroscience, Psychology, Reduction and Functional Analysis," (with Martin Roth). Forthcoming in D. Kaplan, ed., Integrating Mind and Brain Science: Mechanistic Perspectives and Beyond. Oxford.  PDF

"Unexploited Content," in Graham McDonald and David Papineau, eds. Teleosemantics. Oxford University Press (in press). (With Jim Blackmon, David Byrd, Alexa Lee, Chris May and Martin Roth.) (pdf)

“Neo-teleology.” in Cummins, Ariew and Perlman (eds) Functions: New Essays in The Philosophy of Psychology and Biology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002, pp. 157-173. (pdf)

Learning, Development and Evolution

The emerging field of evolutionary robotics provides a promissing venue for investigating the puzzling relationship between selection, development and learning, calling into question the traditional distinction between development and learning, and suggesting some promising alternatives to the doctrines of massive modularity and nativism that have dominated cognitive evolutionary psychology to date.

                                                                                            Some Related Publications:

Cummins, D.D., & Cummins, R.C.. “Innate modules vs innate learning biases.” Cognitive Processing: The International Quarterly of Cognitive Science.(in press)

"Cognitive evolutionay psychology without representational nativism," (with Denise Cummins and Pierre Poirier). Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Artificial Intelligence,  15:2  (April-June 2003) Special issue: Cognitive Science in the New Millennium: Foundations, Directions, Applications, and Problems,  pp. 125-141. (pdf)

“Biological preparedness and evolutionary explanation,” Cognition, 73, 37-53. With Denise Dellarosa Cummins, 1999. (pdf)