Bee-ing There: The Systematicity of Honeybee Navigation Supports a Classical Theory of Honeybee Cognition

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The Classical theory of cognition proposes that there are cognitive processes that are computations defined over syntactically specified representations, "sentences" in a language of thought, for which the representational-constituency relation is concatenative. The main rival to Classicism is(Nonimplementational, or Radical, Distributed) Connectionism. It proposes that cognitive processes are computations defined over syntactically simple, distributed representions, for which the constituency relation is nonconcatenative. I argue that Connectionism, unlike Classicism, fails to provide an adequate theoretical framework for explaining systematically related cognitive capacities and that this is due to its necessary reliance on nonconcatenative constituency.

There appears to be an interesting divergence of attitude among philosophers of psychology and cognitive scientists regarding Classicism's language of thought hypothesis. On one extreme, there are those who argue that only humans are likely to possess a language of thought (or that we at least have no evi- dence to the contrary). On the other extreme, there are those who argue that distinctively human thinking is not likely to be explicable in terms of a language of thought. They point to features of human cognition which they claim strongly support the hypothesis that human cognitive-state transition functions are computationally intractable. This implicitly suggests that the cognitive processes of simpler, nonhuman minds might be computationally tractable and thus amenable to Classical computational explanation.

I review much of the recent literature on honeybee navigation. I argue that many capacities of honeybees to acquire various sorts of navigational information do in fact exhibit systematicity. That conclusion, together with the correctness of the view that Classicism provides a better theoretical framework than does Connectionism for explaining the systematicity of the relevant cognitive capacities, gives one reason in support of the claim that sophisticated navigators like honeybees have a kind of language of thought. At the very least, it provides one reason in support of the claim that the constituency relation for the mental representations of such navigators is concatenative, not nonconcatenative.