A category theory explanation for systematicity


Classical and Connectionist theories of cognitive architecture "explain" systematicity, whereby the capacity for some cognitive behaviors is intrinsically linked to the capacity for others, as a consequence of syntactically and functionally combinatorial representations, respectively. However, both theories depend on ad hoc assumptions to exclude specific architectures - grammars, or Connectionist networks - that do not account for systematicity. By analogy with the Ptolemaic (i.e., geocentric) theory of planetary motion, although either theory can be made to be consistent with the data, both nonetheless fail to explain it (Aizawa, 2003b). Category theory provides an alternative explanation based on the formal concept of adjunction, which consists of a pair of structure preserving maps, called functors. A functor generalizes the notion of a map between representational states to include a map between state transformations (processes). In a formal sense, systematicity is a necessary consequence of a "higher-order" theory of cognitive architecture, in contrast to the "first-order" theories derived from Classicism or Connectionism. Category theory offers a re-conceptualization for cognitive science, analogous to the one that Copernicus provided for astronomy, where representational states are no longer the center of the cognitive universe - replaced by the relationships between the maps that transform them.

Back to Table of Contents