Genic representation: reconciling content and causal complexity

Michael Wheeler, Andy Clark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Citations (Scopus)


Some recent cognitive-scientific research suggests that a considerable amount of intelligent action is generated not by the systematic activity of internal representations, but by complex interactions involving neural, bodily, and environmental factors. Following an analysis of this threat to representational explanation, we pursue an analogy between the role of genes in the production of biological form and the role of neural states in the production of behaviour, in order to develop a notion of genic representation. In both cases an appeal to normal ecological context is used to balance multi-factoral, interactive causal determination against the intuition that certain aspects of the causal nexus play a special role in promoting adaptive success. Certain worries about this vision help us to get a better grip on the concept of genic representation itself. We end with a puzzle concerning the relation between cognition and representation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-135
Number of pages33
JournalBritish Journal for the Philosophy of Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1999
Externally publishedYes


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