Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





David Papineau

Committee Members

David Papineau

Peter Godfrey-Smith

Stephen Neale

Subject Categories

Philosophy of Mind | Philosophy of Science


representation, content, sender-receiver model, game theory, Bayesian network


Many philosophers of mind regard "What is representation?" as a question of paramount importance. In ask this question they overlook the possibility—what I argue is in fact the correct answer—that there is simply nothing specifically representational about representational systems. "Representation" is a label we somehow feel compelled to stick to some systems but not to others, but it fails to pick out an explanatorily relevant kind. This is most clearly seen when we look at representational systems through the lens of formal models—in particular, the sender-receiver model as developed by David Lewis, Brian Skyrms, and others. I offer a cosmetically different but mathematically equivalent formulation of the model, which makes it easy to show that the same model may be satisfied by intuitively representational and intuitively non-representational systems alike. Since the model is already explanatorily complete (at an appropriately abstract level), barring other arguments to the contrary—some of which I try to refute—representations are explanatorily irrelevant.

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