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Maps, languages, and manguages: Rival cognitive architectures?


  Provided we agree about the thing, it is needless to dispute about the terms.      —David Hume, A treatise of human nature, Book 1, section VII Map-like representations are frequently invoked as an alternative type of representational vehicle to a language of thought. This view presupposes that map-systems and languages form legitimate natural kinds of cognitive representational systems. I argue that they do not, because the collections of features that might be taken as characteristic of maps or languages do not themselves provide scientifically useful information above and beyond what the individual features provide. To bring this out, I sketch several allegedly distinctive features of maps, and show how they can easily be grafted onto a simple logical language, resulting in a hybrid “manguage.” The ease with which these linguistic and map-like properties can be integrated into a single representational system raises the question of what work broader categories like language and map are doing. I maintain that, as an empirical matter of fact, they serve no particular purpose in cognitive science, and thus do not characterize distinct kinds of cognitive architectures.

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