Re: This Is Not a Pipe

From: HARNAD Stevan (
Date: Mon Jun 03 1996 - 21:53:34 BST

> From: "Rowe Anna" <>
> Date: Thu, 23 May 1996 15:41:07 GMT
> A representation is signs or symbols that stand for something in the
> absence of that "thing". There are external and internal (mental)
> representations. External representations are words and pictures. Take
> for example a picture of a pipe and the words underneath saying "this
> is not a pipe". There is no relationship between the words and the pipe

Well, there is: The words are INTERPRETABLE as meaning that "this is not
a pipe" (which, if referring to the object pictured, is false, whereas
if it refers to the picture, which is a picture of a pipe, not an actual
pipe, then it is true). Being interpretable as menaing something IS a
relationship with that something, but it is an indirect one: It requires
the mediation of the mind of an interpreter. Therefore it is not a good
model for what is going on inside the mind of the interpreter.

> but there is between the picture and an actual pipe.

What you meant was no RESEMBLANCE, not no relationship.

> If there was
> writing describing the pipe, this would be related to an actual pipe.

This sounds as if it is contradicting what you said earlier, about no

> But there is a closer relationship between the picture and an actual
> pipe because its structure resembles the structure of the real thing
> (analogical) showing spatial positions, and you would need more
> information in a sentance to give an exact description.

You are mixing two "relationships" here. Both the picture and the
sentence are interpretable as being about the actual pipe. So they both
have a relationship to it. But the picture also resembles it (it is an
analog of it, a shadow), whereas the sentence does not. A longer
sentence would say more about the pipe, and may eventually say
everything you can say about the picture that resembles the pipe, but
the relationship in the case of the picture is still resemblance
(isomorphism), whereas in the case of the long sentence, the
relationship is still one that requires a mind to interpret it.

> Linguistic
> representations are not analogical because the relationship between a
> linguistic symbol and what it represents is arbitrary.

No; the SHAPE of the symbol is arbitrary in relation to what the shape
of what it represents. But it is not EVERY sentence that you can
interpret as meaning "This is not a pipe." And not any string of symbols
will be a successful algorithm. So the relationship between symbols
and what they can be systematically interpreted as meaning, though
indirect, is not arbitrary; only their shape is arbitrary.

> The differences
> between external representations and the properties of each have been
> parallelled to mental representations,with anological (image) mental
> representations parallelled to external pictures and propositions
> (language-like mental sentance) to words, to see how information is
> represented in the mind when one experiences visual mental imagery.
> They both stand for the real object/thing. Propositions can be true or
> false. Taking the picture of the pipe and the statement "this is not a
> pipe", it is a self- denial paradox. Because it is a picture of a pipe,
> the statement is false. Therefore the statement is true. So if it is
> true that the statement is false, then it is definitely false.
> Images are not true or false. An image just is. The types of mental
> representation have produced much discussion and form the first phase
> of the imagery debate.

Almost an A! Just a few things to sort out, and a more substantive
connection with the bigger themes of the course, and it's over the top!

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