BIOSEMANTICS. C ausal or informational theories of the . BIOSEMANTICS. senting (indicating RUTH GARRETT MILLIKAN. University of Connecticut/. The term ‘biosemantics’ has usually been applied only to the theory of mental Ruth Garrett Millikan is Professor of Philosophy, Department of Philosophy. Millikan: Biosemantics. Martín Abreu Zavaleta. June 18, 1 False representations. Millikan, like Dretske, Chisholm and Brentano, thinks that what.

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He also tells us that it need not be a law that if R then Cthough it cannot be merely coincidental.

Teleological Theories of Mental Content (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

A solution must exclude inappropriately proximal items, as well as include appropriately distal items. Plant a red flag among a crowd of snorf and the kimu will eagerly join them. Second is the question of target determination: Another is that we are left without a rational explanation of why a kimu would be eager to enter snorf-infested space when the snorf are near red, other than that they are psychologically incapable of correctly representing the presence of snorf when snorf are near red.

The relevant sort of substance is that which accounts for the past selective success of the learning mechanisms. A teleological theory of content tries to explain the nature of psycho-semantic norms i. The system can be selected for the one disposition that it has but it cannot be selected for the disposition that it does not have.

Teleological theories of content, like other theories of mental content, attempt to solve what is often millikan to as Brentano’s problem: According to an isomorphism theory, representation is a matter of mirroring the relations among bioemantics elements in the represented domain in the relations among elements in the representing domain.

Here, such mental representations are denoted by capitalized English expressions e. A type 1 teleological theory might state, for example, that the content of a perceptual representation is whatever can cause it when the perceptual system is performing its proper function, or when conditions are optimal for the proper performance of its function.


See Shea for discussion of the role of isomorphism in her theory. Pietroski suggests that this might be a problem for all teleological theories of content. Benefit-based theories need not be consumer-based theories, however, since we could speak of benefits to producing systems or when the relevant selection is natural selection operating over an evolutionary span of time to the inclusive fitness of the creature as a whole.

So Dretske’s interim conclusion is that we cannot count this as an unambiguous case of error, on his theory as outlined so far. Causal-role functions are often defined as a select subset of a trait’s actual causal dispositions, and functionalism is often defined as the view that mental states are individuated or classified into types on the basis of such dispositions see, e.

To round out this survey of views, we return to informational theories, to look at some more recent work that is broadly in the tradition of Stampe and Dretske.

Ruth Millikan

Others who offer etiological theories of function drop Wright’s first requirement and speak more specifically of selection as the background process that is responsible for the consequence etiology. Papineau’s theory is a benefit-based theory, and some issues discussed in the previous sub-section are relevant to an assessment of it. Those who offer teleological theories of mental content agree that the relevant notion of function permits the possibility of malfunction; it allows that a token trait could have a function to do Z even if it lacks the disposition to do Z.

If the causal powers of the properties differ, they can play different roles in selection histories. Millikan’s theory presupposes innate learning mechanisms that are tuned to identify substances of different sorts in accord with certain principles. However, Dretske sees a problem with this suggestion. One modest view is that a teleological theory should directly apply to sensory-perceptual and motor representations and to innate concepts only i.

Then segment the lineage at those places where selection for Z stops and starts. She has claimed that attention to the consumers is crucial for solving a certain functional indeterminacy problem, a claim to be discussed in section 4.


In such a case, if an inner state indicates the distal feature anaerobic conditions it will also indicate the more proximal feature local magnetic north. In general, the proponents of teleological theories of content have shown little interest in the notion of narrow content, since they tend to reject the claim that cognitive science should restrict itself to using narrow notions.

Teleological Theories of Mental Content

However, whether Millikan’s solution to the problem of distal content survives closer scrutiny is not clear. Language is combinatorial to the boosemantics that the meaning of a sentence is a function of the meanings of the words in the sentence and their syntactic relations.

We can choose to describe the function one way or biosemantisc but if the content depends on how we choose to describe the function it is not a naturalized content.

One possible concern is whether sufficient room for misrepresentation has been made. Roughly, on an etiological theory of functions, an items function is what it was selected for, or what thing of the type were selected for.

In one sense, referring back to the previous example, my CAT-representation represents the newspaper as a cat, although it is a representation of the newspaper.

That in turn should be driven by other considerations, such as which theory delivers correct content ascriptions for us and other existing creatures.

To bioseantics how we grasp meanings, we might turn to psychological theories of concept possession and introspective access to conceptual structures. Ruth Millikan University of Connecticut.

However, specifying channel conditions without being ad hoc or circular or adverting to intentional phenomena such as that a perceiver is not distracted could prove difficult.