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In order to explain thought in natural physical systems, mainstream cognitive science posits representations, or internal states that carry information about the world and that are used by the system to guide its behavior. Naturalistic theories of representation provide explanations of what information, or content, these internal states carry, and how they come to have the contents that they do. In Representation in Cognitive Science (Oxford University Press, 2018), Nicholas Shea approaches the problem from the perspective of the role that the contents of subpersonal states play in explanations of a system’s behavior. Shea, who is professor of philosophy at the Institute of Philosophy, University of London, offers a theory that integrates two main components – task functions and exploitable relations – into a pluralist view called Varitel Semantics. He presents and defends his account and considers how it fares in relation to competitor theories.

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