Representational Redescription for Sea Slugs

C. Thornton

The paper discusses the Representational Redescription Hypothesis of Clark and Karmiloff-Smith. This hypothesis -- the RRH for short -- has two main parts to it. Part one suggests that human cognitive development is a process involving the redescription of knowledge at increasing levels of abstraction. Part two is a claim about the true nature of thought. It states that representational redescription is the distinctive mark of genuine thinkers. As such it should enable us to distinguish the nature of our thoughts from the information processing states of a sea-slug or a VAX mainframe. My paper attempts to flesh-out part one of the hypothesis by giving it a computational model based on a process called representational abstraction. It then attempts to question the status of part two. It argues that if representational abstraction is a good model for representational redescription, then part. two of the hypothesis is suspect since the process in question is one that we would expect even very primitive organisms to engage in.

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