Representations, symbols, icons, concepts... and why there are no mental representations

Joel Parthemore

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper, not in proceedingpeer-review


One of the key claims I have defended previously is that longstanding arguments over whether concepts are either (mental) representations or(non-representational) abilities gets its premises fundamentally wrong: concepts must be both. When one reflects on them – when one considers one’s concepts as concepts – they just are representations; but when one possesses and employs them non-reflectively then, logically, they must be something else: and, here, "non-representational ability" seems the best description. In order to advance this position, however, one must first be as clear as possible what one means by representations, either of the iconic or symbolic variety. A major stumbling block to resolving the conflict between representationalists and antirepresentationalists is that, too often on both sides of the aisle, the term
"representation" is used without any attempt at definition. This paper is an attempt to address this deficiency and set forth definitions that are, if not definitive, at least a step in the right direction.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2013

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Languages and Literature

Free keywords

  • symbolic representations
  • iconic representations
  • theories of concepts
  • concepts
  • mental representations
  • symbols


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