Representation: Theories, Forms and Techniques
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Prof. Dr. Hans-Jörg Sandkühler,
Dr. Silja Freudenberger, beide Universität Bremen, Institut für Philosophie
Professor Dr. Andreas K. Engel, Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf, Institut für Neurophysiologie u. Pathophysiologie
Professor Dr. Sandro Nannini, Università degli Studi di Siena, Dipartimento di Filosofia e Scienze Sociali
Professor Dr. Dr. Kai Vogeley, Klinikum der Universität zu Köln, Klinik und Poliklinik für Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie
In Philosophy, cultural studies and science studies, one often finds the concepts of construction and of representation to be diametrically opposed. It is argued that the concept of representation is in crisis, might have to be jettisoned altogether, and alternative paradigms of human knowledge must be developed.
In the project P1: Knowledge, Representation, Signs and Cultures of Knowledge (Prof. Dr. Hans Jörg Sandkühler/Dr. Silja Freudenberger/Melanie Hoffmann M.A., Bremen) we worked on these epistemological problems of representation. Part A (Freudenberger) focused on the theory of signs and developed a concept of representation that, following Charles S. Peirce, denies the alleged alternatives of either 'representation' or 'construction' and which captures the strengths of the intuitions underlining these concepts in one encompassing concept of representation. Part B (Sandkühler/Hofmann) dealt primarily with the question of the contextuality of representations in experimental cultures/cultures of knowledge.
A central conclusion of part A is that ‘construction’ need not be understood in opposition to 'representation'. Peirce gives us a method by which it can be explained how objects of knowledge are constructed in the process of their representation, without – on the one hand – claiming that in knowledge processes pre-existing things simply are re-presented in our mind, and – on the other hand – without abandoning the idea of the real existence of the object represented. The object of knowledge is constructed in the process of its representation. Peircean semiotics, thus, offers a highly original but widely neglected theoretical option: Representation is construction. The emergence of objects of knowledge in the process of inquiring into their nature (Peirce: "reality consists in the future") can be observed in the natural sciences as well as in the humanities.
Central conclusions of part B are: (i) assertions, scientific and non-scientific alike, aren’t copies of the things to know, but are artifacts charged with presuppositions: presuppositions of specific cultures of knowledge, practical-social presuppositions, epistemic and practical interests and needs. They are charged with propositional attitudes depending on systems of belief. (ii) The reality-status of what is represented is altered through thinking, imaginations, linguistic signs, symbols, metaphors, models and images. Representation is representation by proxy. That which is represented does not force any relation of similarity, isomorphism or identity with that which represents. (iii) The dualism 'neural'/'mental' which apparently ontologically commits us to posit different entities, is a consequence of our choices of methods and theories. In both cases, we have names, statements in sign systems, the ascription of meaning to representations whose explication is the task of semantics and semiotics. (iv) Every expression of the form "b is a representation of a" should have a signature: Talk about representations takes place within a belief system B under specific epistemic conditions ec in a specific language l. (v) perceptions and experiences, observations and experiments, beliefs, representations and knowledged are embedded in networks of cultures of knowledge.
In this perspective of 'cultures of knowledge', a rationalistically constricted concept of knowledge is expanded: Replacing it is a structure of n-place relations including pre-rational deep tiers, from which – mediated by emotions, attitudes and beliefs – knowledge is built. This opens the concept of knowledge for the insight that in different cultures different attitudes and beliefs can lead to conflicting truth claims. Particular traditions, styles of argumentation and representation, self-images and reflections by others are the basis of epistemic identities. (vi) The idea that knowledge consists in justified true belief must be expanded: Knowledge is justified true belief within contexts of cultures of knowledge and according to standards of justification accepted in the culture of knowledge. The hypothesis that representation could be understood as a two-place relation b repr a must be given up. The relation of representation has more than two places: b repr a under the conditions of a culture of knowledge c, d, e. a is represented as ac or ad or ae (Sandkühler). (vii) Copy-theories are unsuited for a proper understanding of representation. The critique of one-dimensional explanations of representation and knowledge opens new ways in epistemology and philosophy of science: ways in which constructivity, subjectivity, epistemic activity, communication and socio-cultural networks can be considered to play a role in the origin and development of knowledge. This is also shown by an analysis of experimental cultures which are embedded in cultures of knowledge.