If the eye were an animal . . . the problem of representation in understanding, meaning and intelligence
Theories of epistemology have come a long way since Leucippus’ account of objects emitting copies of themselves that are taken up by the senses and presented to the soul, but much of modern psychology and epistemology are still based upon a representational theory of knowledge -- that there is something in our head which ‘stands for’ the things in our world. This view has been challenged since Aristotle by an alternative view that knowledge is simply a change in the organism such that the organism better fits within its world -- in short, knowledge as an adaption. Recent advances in philosophy, psychology and artificial intelligence reinforce this functional conception of knowledge and give us a valid and consistent way of understanding meaning and intelligence. In this paper, I articulate this alternative epistemology and lay out its implications for intelligences of the artificial kind.