Why Dreyfus’ Frame Problem Argument Cannot Justify Anti-Representational AI


Hubert Dreyfus has argued recently that the frame problem, discussion of which has fallen out of favour in the AI community, is still a deal breaker for the majority of AI projects, despite the fact that the logical version of it has been solved. (Shanahan 1997, Thielscher 1998). Dreyfus thinks that the frame problem will disappear only once we abandon the Cartesian foundations from which it stems and adopt, instead, a thoroughly Heideggerian model of cognition, in particular one that does not appeal to representations. I argue that Dreyfus is too hasty in his condemnation of all representational views; the argument he provides licenses only a rejection of disembodied models of cognition. In casting his net too broadly, Dreyfus circumscribes the cognitive playing field so closely that one is left wondering how his Heideggerian alternative could ever provide a foundation explanatorily robust enough for a theory of cognition. As a consequence, he dilutes the force of his legitimate conclusion, that disembodied cognitive models will not work, and this conclusion needs to be heard. By disentangling the ideas of embodiment and representation, at least with respect to Dreyfus’ frame problem argument, the real locus of the general polemic between traditional computational/representational cognitive science and the more recent embodied approaches is revealed. From this, I hope that productive debate will ensue.

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