Alberto Greco (1998) Connectionist Models can Reveal Good Analogies . Psycoloquy: 9(47) Connectionist Explanation (31)
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Psycoloquy 9(47): Connectionist Models can Reveal Good Analogies

Commentary on Green on Connectionist-Explanation

Alberto Greco
DISA Psychology Laboratory
University of Genoa
Genova, Italy


Green (1998a) argues that distributed connectionist models are not theories of cognition. This is reasonable if it means that the explanatory role of connectionist models is not clear, but Green's analysis seems directed against the wrong target when he applies a realist position to models. His argument confuses models with objects. Models are useful as long as they establish analogies between unknown and known phenomena; but not all details are important. The real problem may concern the explanatory role of connectionist models (which is what Green also seems concerned about), but then it should be formulated on different grounds. If they are intended as cognitive models (and not as mere AI artifacts), their internal operations should be describable (by analogy) using a cognitive vocabulary. This is often not the case with connectionist models. Are they always useless as cognitive models then? I cannot share Green's conclusion that the only hope for connectionism is to model brain activity. On the contrary, because the most attractive feature of connectionist models is that they can perform cognitive tasks using no symbols, they can be useful tools for studying (by analogy) the origin and grounding of symbols.


artificial intelligence, cognition, computer modelling, connectionism, epistemology, explanation, methodology, neural nets, philosophy of science, theory.