Are Generative Models Structural Representations?

Minds and Machines 31 (2):277-303 (2021)
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Abstract

Philosophers interested in the theoretical consequences of predictive processing often assume that predictive processing is an inferentialist and representationalist theory of cognition. More specifically, they assume that predictive processing revolves around approximated Bayesian inferences drawn by inverting a generative model. Generative models, in turn, are said to be structural representations: representational vehicles that represent their targets by being structurally similar to them. Here, I challenge this assumption, claiming that, at present, it lacks an adequate justification. I examine the only argument offered to establish that generative models are structural representations, and argue that it does not substantiate the desired conclusion. Having so done, I consider a number of alternative arguments aimed at showing that the relevant structural similarity obtains, and argue that all these arguments are unconvincing for a variety of reasons. I then conclude the paper by briefly highlighting three themes that might be relevant for further investigation on the matter.

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