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2.3d. Teleological Accounts of Mental Content (Teleological Accounts of Mental Content on PhilPapers)

See also:
Abrams, Marshall (2005). Teleosemantics without natural selection. Biology and Philosophy 20 (1):97-116.   (Cited by 1 | Google | More links)
Abstract: Ruth Millikan and others advocate theories which attempt to naturalize wide mental content (e.g. beliefs
Adams, Frederick R. & Aizawa, Kenneth (1997). Rock beats scissors: Historicalism fights back. Analysis 57 (4):273-81.   (Cited by 2 | Google | More links)
Agar, Nicholas (1993). What do frogs really believe? Australasian Journal of Philosophy 71 (1):1-12.   (Cited by 10 | Annotation | Google | More links)
Millikan, Ruth G. (2007). An Input Condition for Teleosemantics? Reply to Shea (and Godfrey-Smith). Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 75 (2):436-455.   (Google)
Allen, Colin (2001). A tale of two froggies. In J. McIntosh (ed.), Naturalism, Evolution, and Intentionality (Canadian Journal of Philosophy Supplementary Volume 27). University of Calgary Press.   (Google)
Abstract: There once was an ugly duckling. Except he wasn’t a duckling at all, and once he realized his error he lived happily ever after. And there you have an early primer from the animal literature on the issue of misrepresentation -- perhaps one of the few on this topic to have a happy ending. Philosophers interested in misrepresentation have turned their attention to a different fairy tale animal: the frog. No one gets kissed in this story and the controversial issue of self-recognition is avoided. There are simply some scientifically established facts about ways to get a frog to stick out its tongue. (Who would want to kiss a frog under those conditions, anyway?) Some frogs, it seems, are fairly indiscriminate about sticking out their tongues. Not just flies, but a whole slew of other things will go down the hatch if propelled at just the right velocity and range through a frog’s visual field, provoking a tongue-flicking response. Fortunately for us all, frogs seem to be a bit more discriminating about whom they will kiss. At first sight, the frog’s tongue-flicking response seems like an ideal starting point for those who wish to promote evolutionary or "teleological" theories of intentional content. The signals passed from the frog’s retina to the frog’s brain were undoubtedly honed by the deaths of untold millions of insects snagged by countless generations of amphibians. Those amphibian ancestors whose eyes generated signals that were more 1 reliable guides to the location of food in the environment did better at propagating their genes, all other things being equal, than their cohorts whose eye to brain signals were less reliable. The teleosemanticist identifies the content of frogs’ intracranial signals in terms of the environmental conditions that historically corresponded to successful tongue-flicking, namely the presence of frog food -- typically flies -- in tongue-flicking range. And their descendants live happily ever after. But this would not be a fairy tale unless there were something to pose a credible threat to this happy ending..
Anderson, Michael L. (2005). Representation, evolution and embodiment. [Journal (Paginated)] (in Press).   (Google)
Abstract: As part of the ongoing attempt to fully naturalize the concept of human being--and, more specifically, to re-center it around the notion of agency--this essay discusses an approach to defining the content of representations in terms ultimately derived from their central, evolved function of providing guidance for action. This 'guidance theory' of representation is discussed in the context of, and evaluated with respect to, two other biologically inspired theories of representation: Dan Lloyd's dialectical theory of representation and Ruth Millikan's biosemantics
Antony, Louise M. (1996). Equal Rights for Swamp-persons. Mind and Language 11 (1):70-75.   (Google)
Ariew, Andre; Cummins, Robert & Perlman, Mark (2002). Functions: New Essays in the Philosophy of Psychology and Biology. Oxford University Press.   (Cited by 18 | Google | More links)
Millikan, Ruth G. (2009). Biosemantics. In Brian P. McLaughlin & Ansgar Beckerman (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Mind. Oxford University Press.   (Google)
L'Hôte, Crystal (forthcoming). Biosemantics: an evolutionary theory of thought. Evolution: Education and Outreach.   (Google)
Bauer, Mark (2009). Normativity without artifice. Philosophical Studies 144 (2):239-259.   (Google)
Abstract: To ascribe a telos is to ascribe a norm or standard of performance. That fact underwrites the plausibility of, say, teleological theories of mind. Teleosemantics, for example, relies on the normative character of teleology to solve the problem of “intentional inexistence”: a misrepresentation is just a malfunction. If the teleological ascriptions of such theories to natural systems, e.g., the neurological structures of the brain, are to be literally true, then it must be literally true that norms can exist independent of intentional and psychological agency. Davies, for one, has argued that such norms are impossible within a naturalistic worldview. Consequently, teleological theories of mind, for example, cannot be literally true. I will show, however, that the truth conditions on normative statements do not presuppose intentional and psychological agency and, further, that a selectional regime is one naturalistic mechanism that satisfies those truth conditions. Norms, then, exist in the world independent of intentional and psychological agency
Braddon-Mitchell, David & Jackson, Frank (2002). A pyrrhic victory for teleonomy. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 80 (3):372-77.   (Cited by 3 | Google | More links)
Braddon-Mitchell, David & Jackson, Frank (1997). The teleological theory of content. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 75 (4):474-89.   (Cited by 8 | Google | More links)
Bridges, Jason (2006). Teleofunctionalism and psychological explanation. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 28 (September):359-372.   (Google | More links)
Charlton, William (1991). Teleology and mental states. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 17:17-32.   (Cited by 1 | Google)
Clarke, Murray (1996). Darwinian algorithms and indexical representation. Philosophy of Science 63 (1):27-48.   (Google | More links)
Shea, Nicholas (2007). Consumers Need Information: supplementing teleosemantics with an input condition. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 75 (2):404-435.   (Google)
Cruz, Joe (online). On teleosemantics and natural maps (comments on work by Rob Cummins et al.).   (Google)
Abstract: Let me begin by signaling my enthusiasm both for the specific case offered by Cummins et al. against teleosemantics and for the overall framework from which this work derives. If the first approximation of the idea is that there will be material implicit in a representation that can be exploited by a cognitive agent that later acquires the right abilities to extract this material, and if this material looks a great deal like content, then the teleosemanticist will find accommodating it challenging. Moreover, the distinction between representation and indication is intriguing and important, and the discussion of structural transformation and isomorphism is illuminating. While Cummins has been urging these themes for some time now, it seems to me that they have not been sufficiently appreciated in the literature
Cummins, Robert E.; Blackmon, James; Byrd, David; Lee, Alexa & Martin Roth, and (2006). Representation and unexploited content. In Graham F. Macdonald & David Papineau (eds.), Teleosemantics. Oxford University Press.   (Google)
Abstract: In this paper, we introduce a novel difficulty for teleosemantics, viz., its inability to account for what we call unexploited content—content a representation has, but which the system that harbors it is currently unable to exploit. In section two, we give a characterization of teleosemantics. Since our critique does not depend on any special details that distinguish the variations in the literature, the characterization is broad, brief and abstract. In section three, we explain what we mean by unexploited content, and argue that any theory of content adequate to ground representationalist theories in cognitive science must allow for it.1 In section four, we show that teleosemantic theories of the sort we identify in section two cannot accommodate unexploited content, and are therefore unacceptable if intended as attempts to ground representationalist cognitive science. Finally, in section five, we speculate that the existence and importance of unexploited content has likely been obscured by a failure to distinguish representation from indication, and by a tendency to think of representation as reference
Davies, Paul S. (2001). The Excesses of Teleosemantics. In J. S. McIntosh (ed.), Naturalism, Evolution, and Intentionality (Canadian Journal of Philosophy Supplementary Volume 27). University of Calgary Press.   (Google)
Dennett, Daniel C. (2002). Brian Cantwell Smith on evolution, objectivity, and intentionality. In Philosophy of Mental Representation. Oxford: Clarendon Press.   (Google)
Dennett, Daniel C. (1988). Evolution, error and intentionality. In The Intentional Stance. MIT Press.   (Cited by 21 | Annotation | Google | More links)
Abstract: Sometimes it takes years of debate for philosophers to discover what it is they really disagree about. Sometimes they talk past each other in long series of books and articles, never guessing at the root disagreement that divides them. But occasionally a day comes when something happens to coax the cat out of the bag. "Aha!" one philosopher exclaims to another, "so that's why you've been disagreeing with me, misunderstanding me, resisting my conclusions, puzzling me all these years!"
Dennett, Daniel C. (1993). Evolution, teleology, intentionality. [Journal (Paginated)] 16 (2):89-391.   (Cited by 2 | Google | More links)
Abstract: No response that was not as long and intricate as the two commentaries combined could do justice to their details, so what follows will satisfy nobody, myself included. I will concentrate on one issue discussed by both commentators: the relationship between evolution and teleological (or intentional) explanation. My response, in its brevity, may have just one virtue: it will confirm some of the hunches (or should I say suspicions) that these and other writers have entertained about my views. For more closely argued defenses of my points, see Dennett 1990a,b,c; 1991a,b
Dennett, Daniel C. (1996). Granny versus mother nature - no contest. Mind and Language 11 (3):263-269.   (Cited by 2 | Google | More links)
Dretske, Fred (1986). Misrepresentation. In R. Bogdan (ed.), Belief: Form, Content, and Function. Oxford University Press.   (Cited by 136 | Annotation | Google)
Dretske, Fred (2001). Norms, history, and the mental. In D. Walsh (ed.), Evolution, Naturalism and Mind. Cambridge University Press.   (Cited by 4 | Google)
Dretske, Fred (2006). Representation, teleosemantics, and the problem of self-knowledge. In Graham F. Macdonald & David Papineau (eds.), Teleosemantics. Oxford University Press.   (Google)
Elder, Crawford (forthcoming). Mental Causation, Invariance, and Teleofunctional Content. The Monist.   (Google)
Elder, Crawford L. (1998). What sensory signals are about. Analysis 58 (4):273-276.   (Cited by 1 | Google | More links)
Abstract: In ‘Of Sensory Systems and the “Aboutness” of Mental States’, Kathleen Akins (1996) argues against what she calls ‘the traditional view’ about sensory systems, according to which they are detectors of features in the environment outside the organism. As an antidote, she considers the case of thermoreception, a system whose sensors send signals about how things stand with themselves and their immediate dermal surround (a ‘narcissistic’ sensory system); and she closes by suggesting that the signals from many sensory systems may not in any familiar sense be about anything at all. Her presentation of the issues, however, overlooks resources available to ‘the traditional view’—or so I shall argue. Akins’s own thumbnail sketch of what is wrong with the traditional view is that it asks, concerning a given sensory system, ‘what is it detecting?’, when we should instead be asking ‘what is it doing?’ (352). Her point is that on the traditional view the function of a sensory system—what it's ‘for’—is to detect or indicate (values of) features of the outside environment. But at least on one version of the traditional view—namely Ruth Millikan’s—this would never be the sole or main proper function of a sensory system. (Akins does not list Millikan as a traditionalist, but Millikan fits squarely Akins’s description of them, since she believes in a naturalistic theory of aboutness and thinks it should begin with the senses.) For Millikan (1989, 1993), the proper function of a sensory system is in the first instance enabling behavioural systems—in the simplest case, motor routines—to perform their proper function. This they do, roughly, by switching on and steering the behavioural routines. Where features of the outside environment come in is as Normal (= assumed-by-the-design) conditions for the successful performance of the sensory system's proper function. That is, the only strategy for switching on and steering that is simple enough for evolution to have hit upon it, and reliable enough for evolution to have liked it, is a strategy which gears the steering to (values of) features of the outside environment. But as soon as one starts fleshing out the details of this story, one notices that they are probably quite different in the case of thermoreception from how they are with ‘distance’ senses such as vision and olfaction--a point which Akins overlooks..
Elder, Crawford L. (1998). What versus how in naturally selected representations. Mind 107 (426):349-363.   (Cited by 5 | Google | More links)
Abstract: Empty judgements appear to be about something, and inaccurate judgements to report something. Naturalism tries to explain these appearances without positing non-real objects or states of affairs. Biological naturalism explains that the false and the empty are tokens which fail to perform the function proper to their biological type. But if truth is a biological 'supposed to', we should expect designs that achieve it only often enough. The sensory stimuli which trigger the frog's gulp-launching signal may be a poor guide to the signal's content. Teleosemantics should be anti-verificationist
Enc, Berent (2002). Indeterminacy of Function Attributions. In Andre Ariew, Robert Cummins & Mark Perlman (eds.), Functions: New Essays in the Philosophy of Psychology and Biology.   (Google)
Ferguson, Kenneth G. (2009). Meaning and the external world. Erkenntnis 70 (3).   (Google)
Abstract: Realism, defined as a justified belief in the existence of the external world, is jeopardized by ‘meaning rationalism,’ the classic theory of meaning that sees the extension of words as a function of the intensions of individual speakers, with no way to ensure that these intensions actually correspond to anything in the external world. To defend realism, Ruth Millikan ( 1984 , 1989a , b , 1993 , 2004 , 2005 ) offers a biological theory of meaning called ‘teleosemantics’ in which words, without requiring any contribution from the speaker’s intensions, are supposedly matched directly with their extensions by external norms. But even if one granted as a theoretical possibility that word meaning might possibly be stabilized through an external process, nonetheless, realists who wish to appeal to teleosemantics for a semantic proof of the external world must be capable of identifying these external norms, something that Millikan describes as highly fallible. Furthermore, because they can be aware of these norms only as these are internally represented, it would also be necessary for realists to verify that these internal representations accurately reflect the norms as they occur in the external world. But given that this is virtually the same stumbling block to realism found in meaning rationalism, it is concluded that teleosemantics is not likely to restore faith in this worldview
Fodor, Jerry A. (1990). A theory of content I. In Jerry A. Fodor (ed.), A Theory of Content. MIT Press.   (Annotation | Google)
Fodor, Jerry A. (1990). Psychosemantics, or, where do truth conditions come from? In William G. Lycan (ed.), Mind and Cognition. Blackwell.   (Cited by 33 | Annotation | Google)
Forbes, Graeme (1989). Biosemantics and the normative properties of thought. Philosophical Perspectives 3:533-547.   (Google | More links)
Gauker, Christopher (1995). Review of Millikan, White Queen Psychology and Other Essays for Alice. Philosophical Psychology 8:305-309.   (Google)
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Abstract: This book explains the relationship between intelligence and environmental complexity, and in so doing links philosophy of mind to more general issues about the relations between organisms and environments, and to the general pattern of 'externalist' explanations. The author provides a biological approach to the investigation of mind and cognition in nature. In particular he explores the idea that the function of cognition is to enable agents to deal with environmental complexity. The history of the idea in the work of Dewey and Spencer is considered, as is the impact of recent evolutionary theory on our understanding of the place of mind in nature
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Godfrey-Smith, Peter (2004). Mental representation, naturalism, and teleosemantics. In David Papineau & Graham MacDonald (eds.), Teleosemantics: New Philosophical Essays. Oxford University Press.   (Cited by 3 | Google)
Abstract: The "teleosemantic" program is part of the attempt to give a naturalistic explanation of the semantic properties of mental representations. The aim is to show how the internal states of a wholly physical agent could, as a matter of objective fact, represent the world beyond them. The most popular approach to solving this problem has been to use concepts of physical correlation with some kinship to those employed in information theory (Dretske 1981, 1988; Fodor 1987, 1990). Teleosemantics, which tries to solve the problem using a concept of biological function, arrived in the mid 1980s with ground-breaking works by Millikan (1984) and Papineau (1984, 1987).<sup>1</sup>
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Abstract: In a recent article, William F. Harms (2000) argues in a novel way for a form of moral realism. He does not actually argue that moral realism is true, but rather that if morality is the product of natural selection
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Abstract: Ruth Millikan’s teleological theory of mental content is complex and often misunderstood. This paper motivates and clarifies some of the complexities of the theory, and shows that paying careful attention to its details yields answers to a number of common objections to teleological theories, in particular, the problem of novel mental states, the problem of functionally false beliefs, and problems about indeterminacy or multiplicity of function
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Abstract: Are learning processes selection processes? This paper takes a slightly modified version of the account of selection presented in Hull et al. (Behav Brain Sci 24:511–527, 2001) and asks whether it applies to learning processes. The answer is that although some learning processes are selectional, many are not. This has consequences for teleological theories of mental content. According to these theories, mental states have content in virtue of having proper functions, and they have proper functions in virtue of being the products of selection processes. For some mental states, it is plausible that the relevant selection process is natural selection, but there are many for which it is not plausible. One response to this (due to David Papineau) is to suggest that the learning processes by which we acquire non-innate mental states are selection processes and can therefore confer proper functions on mental states. This paper considers two ways in which this response could be elaborated, and argues that neither of them succeed: the teleosemanticist cannot rely on the claim that learning processes are selection processes in order to justify the attribution of proper functions to beliefs
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Abstract: Theories of content purport to explain, among other things, in virtue of what beliefs have the truth conditions they do have. The desire for such a theory has many sources, but prominent among them are two puzzling (and related) facts that are notoriously difficult to explain: beliefs can be false, and there are normative constraints on the formation of beliefs.2 If we knew in virtue of what beliefs had truth conditions, we would be better positioned to explain how it is possible for an agent to believe that which is not the case. Moreover, we do not say merely of such an agent that he believes that p when p is not the case. We say the agent made a mistake, and often criticize him accordingly; we think agents ought not have false beliefs, and that such beliefs should be changed; etc. An adequate theory of content would, presumably, reveal the source of these normative facts about the mental lives of agents. Indeed, it is typically taken to be an adequacy constraint on a theory of content that it help explain the possibility of error and the "normativity" of content. Teleological theories of content promise to do just this
Potrc, Matjaz (1992). A naturalistic and evolutionary account of content. In The Turning Points of the New Phenomenological Era (Analecta Husserliana, XXXIV). Dordrecht: Kluwer.   (Google)
Price, Carolyn S. (1998). Determinate functions. Noûs 32 (1):54-75.   (Cited by 5 | Google | More links)
Price, Carolyn S. (2001). Functions in Mind: A Theory of Intentional Content. Oxford University Press.   (Cited by 14 | Google | More links)
Abstract: In this adventurous contribution to the project of combining philosophy and biology to understand the mind, Carolyn Price investigates what it means to say that mental states--like thoughts, wishes, and perceptual experiences--are about things in the natural world. Her insight into this deep philosophical problem offers a novel teleological account of intentional content, grounded in and shaped by a carefully constructed theory of functions. Along the way she defends her view from recent objections to teleological theories and indicates how it might be applied to notable problems in the philosophy of mind
Price, Carolyn S. (2000). General-purpose content. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 14 (2):123-133.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: In this paper, I consider the objection, raised by Radu Bogdan, that a teleological theory of content is unable to ascribe content to a general-purpose, doxastic system. I begin by giving some attention to the notion of general-purpose representation, and suggest that this notion can best be understood as what I term "interest-independent" representation. I then outline Bogdan's objection in what I take to be its simplest form. I attempt to counter the objection by explaining how a teleologist might ascribe content in a particular case - the case of a perceptual judgement whose content is learned. I reject the idea that the teleologist can appeal to the way in which the subject has used the judgement, or its constituent concepts, in the past, on the grounds that it is possible for the subject to produce judgements and concepts that never help her to satisfy any of her interests. Instead, my account depends on the idea that the process of learning is regulated by a mechanism whose function is to produce a harmony between the information carried by perceptual judgements and the way in which they are used in inference
Ross, Don & Zawidzki, Tadeusz W. (1994). Information and teleosemantics. Southern Journal of Philosophy 32 (4):393-419.   (Cited by 2 | Google)
Rosenberg, Alexander (1989). Perceptual presentations and biological function: A comment on Matthen. Journal of Philosophy 86 (January):38-44.   (Cited by 1 | Google | More links)
Rountree, James (1997). The plausibility of teleological content ascriptions: A reply to Pietroski. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 78 (4):404-20.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: Paul Pietroski argues that evolutionary/teleological theories of content offer implausible content ascriptions in certain cases, and that this provides grounds for rejecting this class of theories. He uses a fictional example to illustrate. A close look at the example shows it fails to provoke the intuitions Pietroski is relying on - these require relatively sophisticated representers while his representers are simple, comparable to known actual organisms for which the required intuitions do not arise. Could Pietroski make his point with an amended example? I argue that the scenario required would be both evolutionarily unlikely, and such as to make intuitions unreliable
Rowlands, Mark (online). Teleosemantics. A Field Guide to the Philosophy of Mind.   (Google)
Rowlands, Mark (1997). Teleological semantics. Mind 106 (422):279-304.   (Cited by 11 | Google | More links)
Abstract: Teleological theories of content are thought to suffer from two related difficulties. According to the problem of indeterminacy, biological function is indeterminate in the sense that, in the case of two competing interpretations of the function of an evolved mechanism, there is often no fact of the matter capable of determining which function is the correct one. Therefore, any attempts to construct content out of biological function entail the indeterminacy of content. According to the problem of transparency, statements of biological function are transparent in that a statement of the form 'the function of evolved mechanism M is to represent Fs' can be substituted salva veritate by a statement of the form 'the function of evolved mechanism M is to represent Gs' provided that the statement 'F iff G' is counterfactual supporting. Therefore, any attempt to construct content out of biological function must fail to capture the intensionality of psychological ascriptions. This paper argues that the teleological account is undermined by neither of these problems. Failure to appreciate this point stems from a conflation of two types of proper function - organismic and algorithmic - possessed by an evolved mechanism. These functions underwrite attributions of content to distinct objects. The algorithmic proper function of a mechanism underwrites attributions of content to the mechanism itself, while the organismic proper function of a mechanism underwrites attribution of content to the organism that possesses the mechanism. However the problems of indeterminacy and transparency arise only if the attributions of content attach to the same object
Koons, Robert C. (2000). Realism Regained: An Exact Theory of Causation, Teleology, and the Mind. Oxford University Press.   (Google)
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Ryder, Dan (2006). On thinking of kinds: A neuroscientific perspective. In David Papineau & Graham MacDonald (eds.), Teleosemantics: New Philosophical Essays. Oup.   (Cited by 1 | Google | More links)
Ryder, Dan (2004). SINBaD neurosemantics: A theory of mental representation. Mind and Language 19 (2):211-240.   (Cited by 9 | Google)
Saidel, Eric (2001). Teleosemantics and the Epiphenomenality of Content. In J. S. McIntosh (ed.), Naturalism, Evolution, and Intentionality (Canadian Journal of Philosophy Supplementary Volume 27). University of Calgary Press.   (Google)
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Shapiro, Lawrence A. (1996). Representation from bottom to top. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 26 (4):523-42.   (Cited by 1 | Google)
Shani, Itay (2007). Teleonomic Functions and Intrinsic Intentionality: Dretske's Theory as a Test Case. Cognitive Systems Research 8 (1):15-27.   (Google)
Shea, Nicholas (2007). Consumers need information: Supplementing teleosemantics with an input condition. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 75 (2):404–435.   (Cited by 2 | Google | More links)
Abstract: The success of a piece of behaviour is often explained by its being caused by a true representation (similarly, failure falsity). In some simple organisms, success is just survival and reproduction. Scientists explain why a piece of behaviour helped the organism to survive and reproduce by adverting to the behaviour
Shea, Nicholas (2006). Millikan's contribution to materialist philosophy of mind. Matière Première 1:127-156.   (Google)
Abstract: One of the great outstanding problems in materialist philosophy of mind is the problem of how there can be space in the material world for intentionality. In the 1980s Ruth Millikan formulated a detailed theory according to which representations are physical particulars and their contents are complex relational properties of those particulars which can be specified in terms of respectable properties drawn from the natural sciences. In particular, she relied on the biological concept of the function of a trait, and the existence of historical conditions which enter into an evolutionary explanation of the operation of that trait. The present article is an introduction to this influential theory of intentionality
Shea, Nicholas (forthcoming). Millikan's Isomorphism Requirement. In Justine Kingsbury, Dan Ryder & Kenneth Williford (eds.), Millikan and Her Critics. Blackwell.   (Google)
Shea, Nicholas (2004). On Millikan. Wadsworth.   (Google)
Stegmann, Ulrich E. (2009). A consumer‐based teleosemantics for animal signals. Philosophy of Science 76 (5).   (Google)
Abstract: Ethological theory standardly attributes representational content to animal signals. In this article I first assess whether Ruth Millikan’s teleosemantic theory accounts for the content of animal signals. I conclude that it does not, because many signals do not exhibit the required sort of cooperation between signal‐producing and signal‐consuming devices. It is then argued that Kim Sterelny’s proposal, while not requiring cooperation, sometimes yields the wrong content. Finally, I outline an alternative view, according to which consumers alone are responsible for conferring representational status and determining content. I suggest that consumer‐based teleosemantics reconstruct the content of both cooperative and noncooperative signals and explain how a given trait can mean different things to different consumers. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, King’s College London, Strand, London WC2R 2LS, U.K.; e‐mail: ulrich.stegmann@kcl.ac.uk
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Wagner, Steven J. (1996). Teleosemantics and the troubles of naturalism. Philosophical Studies 82 (1):81-110.   (Cited by 4 | Annotation | Google | More links)
Walsh, Denis M. (2002). Brentano's chestnuts. In Andre Ariew, Robert Cummins & Mark Perlman (eds.), Functions. Oxford University Press.   (Google | More links)
Wojtach, William T. (2009). Reconsidering perceptual content. Philosophy of Science 76 (1).   (Google)
Abstract: An important class of teleological theories cannot explain the representational content of visual states because they fail to address the relationship between the world, projected retinal stimuli, and perception. A different approach for achieving a naturalized theory of visual content is offered that rejects the traditional internalism/externalism debate in favor of what is termed “empirical externalism.” This position maintains that, while teleological considerations can underwrite a broad understanding of representation, the content of visual representation can only be determined empirically according to accumulated past experience. A corollary is that a longstanding problem concerning the indeterminacy of visual content is dissolved. *Received September 2006; revised November 2008. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Box 90999 LSRC, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708; e‐mail: wtw3@duke.edu
Zawidzki, Tadeusz W. (2003). Mythological content: A problem for Milikan's teleosemantics. Philosophical Psychology 16 (4):535-538.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: I pose the following dilemma for Millikan's teleological theory of mental content. There is only one way that her theory can avoid Gauker's [(1995) Review of Millikan's White queen psychology and other essays for Alice, Philosophical Psychology, 8, 305-309] charge that it relies on an unexplained notion of mapping or isomorphism between mental state and world. Mental content must be explained in terms of the mapping relation that is required for mental state producing and consuming mechanisms to perform their biologically proper functions, i.e. producing mental states that are consumed in systematically adaptive practical inferences. However, this proposal leads to unacceptably counterintuitive ascriptions of content to mythological beliefs and related desires: such beliefs and desires must "map onto" environmental states that make them adaptive, not onto the mythological states of affairs that (would) make them true or fulfilled. I conclude by discussing the merits and drawbacks of a potential solution to this problem: the view that the contents of mythological beliefs and desires are determined by the non-mythological concepts out of which they are constructed, rather than by the environmental states that make them adaptive. The affinities of this proposal with Pascal Boyer's recent theory of mythological concepts [(2001) Religion explained, New York: Basic Books] are also discussed