Imputations and Explications: Representational Problems in Treatments of Prepositional Attitudes

Cognitive Science 10 (3):319-364 (1986)
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The representation of propositional attitudes (beliefs, desires, etc.) and the analysis of natural-language, propositional-attitude reports presents difficult problems for cognitive science and artificial intelligence. In particular, various representational approaches to attitudes involve the incorrect “imputation,” to cognitive agents, of the use of artificial theory-laden notions. Interesting cases of this problem are shown to occur in several approaches to attitudes. The imputation problem is shown to arise from the way that representational approaches explicate properties and relationships, and in particular from the way they explicate propositional attitudes themselves. Another factor contributing to imputation is the compositional nature of typical semantic approaches to propositional-attitude reports. Some strategies for avoiding undesirable imputation are examined. One of the main conclusions is that the importance of imputations that arise in a representation scheme depends strongly on the use to which the scheme is put -- on whether, for instance, the scheme is used as part of a formal, objective account of natural language, or is used rather as a representational tool within an agent.

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John A Barnden
University of Birmingham


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