Naturalising Intentionalism: Overview

  • Created by: temazcal
  • Created on: 26-05-18 21:37

Causal Theories

General idea is: a thought/state P is about Q iff Qs cause Ps.

Dretske's account is a form of causal account. However, his theory also appeals to the notion of function, in an attempt to distinguish content determining causes from those that are not content determining. Thus, his theory has been labelled teleosemantic.

Fodor's account, too is causal: his theory is one of asymmetric causal dependence.

Causal theories typically involve 4 assumptions: there is a difference between derived and nonderived meaning. Causal theories of meaning presuppose that mental contents are underived, and attempt to explain how. Further, mental content is taken to be a form of non natural meaning: that is, it can be false. Further, it attempts to offer a naturalised account: non natural, underived meaning can be explained purely in nonintentional terms. i.e. a purely physical system could have nonderived content.

Finally, it is commonly presupposed that naturalistic analyses mentioned above will apply to the content of thought. The bearers of causally determined content will be something like firings of a neuron; contents often said to be captured in 'mentalese'.

Unifying inspiration: some syntactic item 'X' means X because 'X's are caused by Xs.

Developmental Functions

Many physical objects have functions. This suggesta a way to specify which causes of 'X' determine its content. Thus, he firing of some neuons is determined by dogs, not foxes, because it is the function of those neurons to register the presence of dogs, but not foxes.

Dretske suggests that brain states mean what they do, because of a function…


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