Our thoughts are meaningful. We think about things in the outside world; how can that be so? This is one of the deepest questions in contemporary philosophy. Ever since the 'cognitive revolution', states with meaning - mental representations - have been the key explanatory construct of the cognitive sciences. But there is still no widely-accepted theory of how mental representations get their meaning. Powerful new methods in cognitive neuroscience can now reveal
information processing in the brain in unprecedented detail. They show how the brain performs complicated calculations on neural representations.
Drawing on this cutting-edge research, Nicholas Shea uses a series of case studies from the cognitive sciences to develop a naturalistic account of the nature of mental representation. Unlike previous treatments, the focus is firmly on the 'subpersonal' representations that pervade so much of the cognitive sciences. The diversity and depth of the case studies, illustrated by numerous figures, make this book unlike any previous treatment. It is important reading for philosophers of psychology
and philosophers and mind, and of considerable interest to researchers throughout the cognitive sciences.
This is an open access title available under the terms of a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International licence. It is free to read at Oxford Scholarship Online and offered as a free PDF download from OUP and selected open access locations.
Nicholas Shea is Professor of Philosophy at the Institute of Philosophy, University of London and an associate member of the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Oxford. He is an interdisciplinary philosopher of mind, and of psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and cognitive science. He went into philosophy after a brief career as an intellectual property barrister, following a degree in mathematics at Oxford. He completed his MA at Birkbeck and PhD at King's College
London and worked as a postdoctoral then senior research fellow in Oxford before returning to London, firstly at King's and then at the Institute of Philosophy. As well as philosophical work on mental representation, inheritance systems, consciousness, and the metaphysics of mind, he has published in
scientific journals in collaboration with psychologists, cognitive neuroscientists and biologists.