In defense of picturing

Sellars's philosophy of mind and cognitive neuroscience

Carl Sachs

pp. 669-689

I argue that Sellars's distinction between signifying and picturing should be taken seriously by philosophers of mind, language, and cognition. I begin with interpretations of key Sellarsian texts in order to show that picturing is best understood as a theory of non-linguistic cognitive representations through which animals navigate their environments. This is distinct from the kind of discursive cognition that Sellars called 'signifying" and which is best understood in terms of socio-linguistic inferences. I argue that picturing is required because reflection on signifying cannot adequately explain our need for cognitive friction. I then show how the idea of picturing is further developed by Paul Churchland, Ruth Garrett Millikan, and Huw Price. I finally turn to predictive processing as a theory of cognitive representation, and in particular Andy Clark's "radical predictive processing", to further characterize picturing. However, doing so has the cost of pushing picturing and signifying further apart than Sellars intended.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/s11097-018-9598-3

Full citation:

Sachs, C. (2019). In defense of picturing: Sellars's philosophy of mind and cognitive neuroscience. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 18 (4), pp. 669-689.

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