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Abstract: In Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche demands that “psychology shall be recognized again as the queen of the sciences.” While one might cast a dubious glance at the “again,” many of Nietzsche’s insights were indeed psychological, and many of his arguments invoke psychological premises. In Genealogy, he criticizes the “English psychologists” for the “inherent psychological absurdity” of their theory of the origin of good and bad, pointing out the implausibility of the claim that the utility of unegoistic actions would be forgotten. Tabling whether this criticism is valid, we see Nietzsche’s methodological naturalism here: moral claims should be grounded in empirical psychological claims. Later in Genealogy, Nietzsche advances his own naturalistic account of the origins of good, bad, and evil. Three cheers for methodological naturalism, but it was not Nietzsche’s innovation, and he did not pioneer its application to morality. The list of moral naturalists who appealed to psychology arguably includes Aristotle, Descartes, Spinoza, Bentham, and Mill, among many others. If Nietzsche’s naturalism is to be worth the candle of contemporary scholarship, it must involve more than the methodological naturalism that predated him by centuries and to which he made no serious contribution. Nietzsche’s key contribution to naturalism is not his adherence to its methodology, but his discovery of certain psychological facts. In particular, he realized that mental states are not ordinary dyadic relations between a subject and an intentional content. Nietzsche discovered the tenacity of intentional states: when an intentional state loses its object (because the subject realizes the object does not exist, because the object is forbidden, or because of something else), a new object replaces the original; the state does not disappear entirely. As Nietzsche puts it Genealogy, “Man would rather will the void than be void of will.” Nietzsche relies on the tenacity thesis in his explanation of the origin of bad conscience: “All instincts that do not discharge themselves outwardly turn inward […. They turn] against [their] possessors.” When hostility towards others becomes impossible, hostility does not disappear; instead, its object is replaced.
Abstract: I have argued elsewhere that the psychological aspects of Nietzsche’s later works are best understood from a psychodynamic point of view. Nietzsche holds a view I dubbed the tenacity of the intentional (T): when an intentional state loses its object, a new object replaces the original; the state does not disappear entirely. In this essay I amend and clarify (T) to (T``): When an intentional state with a sub-propositional object loses its object, the affective component of the state persists without a corresponding object, and that affect will generally be redeployed in a state with a distinct object. I then trace the development of the tenacity thesis through Nietzsche’s early and middle works. Along the way, I discuss a number of related topics, including the scope of the tenacity thesis (does it apply to all intentional states?), the reflexive turn one often finds in Nietzsche’s examples (why does he so often say the new object is oneself?), and the relations among will to power, drives, and the tenacity of the intentional.
Abstract: As Perry originally formulated things, the primary casualty of the problem of the essential indexical was the analysis of belief as a two-place relation between a subject and a proposition.1 Strictly speaking, of course, Perry argued that the problem he identified undermined the “doctrine of propositions” which consists of this analysis of belief together with the claims that the truth-values of propositions are independent of contextual parameters (other than worlds) and that propositions are individuated more finely than truth-conditions.2 But he went on to assert that the only adequate solution to the problem involved the rejection of the “propositional-relation” (let‟s call it) analysis of belief.3 The central aim of this paper is to defend a version of the propositional-relation analysis from Perry‟s criticisms
Abstract: b>. The current essay introduces the guidance theory of representation, according to which the content and intentionality of representations can be accounted for in terms of the way they provide guidance for action. The guidance theory offers a way of fixing representational content that gives the causal and evolutionary history of the subject only an indirect (non-necessary) role, and an account of representational error, based on failure of action, that does not rely on any such notions as proper functions, ideal conditions, or normal circumstances. Moreover, because the notion of error is defined in terms of failure of action, the guidance theory meets the
Abstract: Some mental states are about themselves. Nothing is a cause of itself. So some
mental states are not about their causes; they are about things distinct from their causes.
If this argument is sound, it spells trouble for causal theories of mental content—the
precise sort of trouble depending on the precise sort of causal theory. This paper shows
that the argument is sound (§§1-3), and then spells out the trouble (§4).
Abstract: I defend a theory of mental representation that satisfies naturalistic constraints. Briefly, we begin by distinguishing (i) what makes something a representation from (ii) given that a thing is a representation, what determines what it represents. Representations are states of biological organisms, so we should expect a unified theoretical framework for explaining both what it is to be a representation as well as what it is to be a heart or a kidney. I follow Millikan in explaining (i) in terms of teleofunction, explicated in terms of natural selection.
To explain (ii), we begin by recognizing that representational states do not have content, that is, they are neither true nor false except insofar as they both “point to” or “refer” to something, as well as “say” something regarding whatever it is they are about. To distinguish veridical from false representations, there must be a way for these separate aspects to come apart; hence, we explain (ii) by providing independent theories of what I call f-reference and f-predication (the ‘f’ simply connotes ‘fundamental’, to distinguish these things from their natural language counterparts).
Causal theories of representation typically founder on error, or on what Fodor has called the disjunction problem. Resemblance or isomorphism theories typically founder on what I’ve called the non-uniqueness problem, which is that isomorphisms and resemblance are practically unconstrained and so representational content cannot be uniquely determined. These traditional problems provide the motivation for my theory, the structural preservation theory, as follows. F-reference, like reference, is a specific, asymmetric relation, as is causation. F-predication, like predication, is a non-specific relation, as predicates typically apply to many things, just as many relational systems can be isomorphic to any given relational system. Putting these observations together, a promising strategy is to explain f-reference via causal history and f-predication via something like isomorphism between relational systems.
This dissertation should be conceptualized as having three parts. After motivating and characterizing the problem in chapter 1, the first part is the negative project, where I review and critique Dretske’s, Fodor’s, and Millikan’s theories in chapters 2-4. Second, I construct my theory about the nature of representation in chapter 5 and defend it from objections in chapter 6. In chapters 7-8, which constitute the third and final part, I address the question of how representation is implemented in biological systems. In chapter 7 I argue that single-cell intracortical recordings taken from awake Macaque monkeys performing a cognitive task provide empirical evidence for structural preservation theory, and in chapter 8 I use the empirical results to illustrate, clarify, and refine the theory.
Abstract: Haugeland doesn’t have what I would call a theory of mental representation. Indeed, it isn’t clear that he believes there is such a thing. But he does have a theory of intentionality and a correlative theory of objectivity, and it is this material that I will be discussing in what follows. It will facilitate the discussion that follows to have at hand some distinctions and accompanying terminology I introduced in Representations, Targets and Attitudes (Cummins, 1996; RTA hereafter). Couching the discussion in these terms will, I hope, help to identify points of agreement and disagreement between Haugaland and myself. In RTA, I distinguished between the target a representation has on a given occasion of its application, and its content. RTA takes representation deployment to be the business of intenders: mechanisms whose business it is to represent some particular class of targets. Thus, on standard stories about speech perception, there is a mechanism (called a parser) whose business it is to represent the phrase structure of the linguistic input currently being processed. When this intender passes a representation R to the consumers of its products, those consumers will take R to be a representation of the phrase structure of the current input. There is no explicit vocabulary to mark the target-content distinction in ordinary language. Expressions like "what I referred to," "what I meant," and the like, are ambiguous. Sometimes they mean targets, sometimes contents. Consider the following dialogue
Abstract: Intentionality is _aboutness_. Some things are about other things: a belief can be about icebergs, but an iceberg is not about anything; an idea can be about the number 7, but the number 7 is not about anything; a book or a film can be about Paris, but Paris is not about anything. Philosophers have long been concerned with the analysis of the phenomenon of intentionality, which has seemed to many to be a fundamental feature of mental states and events
Abstract: Questions concerning the nature of representation and what representations are about have been a staple of Western philosophy since Aristotle. Recently, these same questions have begun to concern neuroscientists, who have developed new techniques and theories for understanding how the locus of neurobiological representation, the brain, operates. My dissertation draws on philosophy and neuroscience to develop a novel theory of representational content
Abstract: Hume is a naturalist in many different respects and about many different topics; this paper argues that he is also a naturalist about intentionality and representation. It does so in the course of answering four questions about his theory of mental representation: (1) Which perceptions represent? (2) What can perceptions represent? (3) Why do perceptions represent at all? (4) Howdo perceptions represent what they do? It appears that, for Hume, all perceptions except passions can represent; and they can represent bodies, minds, and persons, with their various qualities. In addition, ideas can represent impressions and other ideas. However, he explicitly rejects the view that ideas are inherently representational, and he implicitly adopts a view according to which things (whether mental or non-mental) represent in virtue of playing, through the production of mental effects and dispositions, a significant part of the causal and/or functional role of what they represent. It is in virtue of their particular functional roles that qualitatively identical ideas are capable of representing particulars or general kinds; substances or modes; relations; past, present, or future; and individuals or compounds
Abstract: Jackendoff defends a mentalist approach to semantics that investigates con- ceptual structures in the mind/brain and their interfaces with other structures, including specifically linguistic structures responsible for syntactic and phono- logical competence. He contrasts this approach with one that seeks to charac- terize the intentional relations between expressions and objects in the world. The latter, he argues, cannot be reconciled with mentalism. He objects in par- ticular that intentionality cannot be naturalized and that the relevant notion of object is suspect. I critically discuss these objections, arguing in part that Jackendoff’s position rests on questionable philosophical assumptions
Abstract: John Haugeland has recently attempted to provide a naturalistic account of intentionality that explains how we can (collectively) misidentify objects in the world in terms of the interplay of two types of 'recognitional' skill. Nevertheless, it is argued here that his inegalitarian conception of the two sorts of skill leaves him with a quasi-conventionalist account of our relation to the world which lacks the more robust sort of objectivity that a more holistic theory could provide
Abstract: William James presents a preference-sensitive and future-directed notion of truth that has struck many as wildly revisionary. This paper argues that such a reaction usually results from failing to see how his accounts of truth and intentionality are intertwined. James' forward-looking account of intentionality (or "knowing") compares favorably the 'causal' and 'resemblance-driven' accounts that have been popular since his day, and it is only when his remarks about truth are placed in the context of his account of intentionality that they come to seem as plausible as they manifestly did to James
Abstract: Recent trends in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science can be fruitfully characterized as part of the ongoing attempt to come to grips with the very idea of homo sapiens--an intelligent, evolved, biological agent--and its signature contribution is the emergence of a philosophical anthropology which, contra Descartes and his thinking thing, instead puts doing at the center of human being. Applying this agency-oriented line of thinking to the problem of representation, this paper introduces the Guidance Theory, according to which the content and intentionality of representations can be accounted for in terms of the way they provide guidance for action. We offer a brief account of the motivation for the theory, and a formal characterization
Abstract: While there is controversy over which of several naturalistic theories of the mental is most plausible, there is consensus regarding the desideratum of a naturalistically respectable theory. A naturalistic theory of the mental, it is agreed, must explicate representation in nonintentional terms. I argue that this constraint does not get at the heart of what it is to be natural. On the one hand, it fails to provide us with a meaningful distinction between the natural and the unnatural. On the other hand, it unfairly suggests that we withhold judgment on those successes our sciences of the mind have already achieved until a convincing decomposition of the mental is available. I urge a new conception of naturalism that focuses less upon ontological considerations and more upon methodological ones
Abstract: This essay some first steps toward the naturalization of what I call rational intentionality or alternatively type II intentionality. By rational or type II intentionality, I mean that full combination of rational powers and content-bearing states that is paradigmatically enjoyed by mature intact human beings. The problem I set myself is to determine the extent to which the only currently extant approach to the naturalization of the intentional that has the singular virtue of not being a non-starter can be aggregated up into an account of rational intentionality. I have in mind a broadly defined family of accounts whose main members are the indicator/information-theoretic approach of Dretske (1988), the asymmetric dependence theory of Jerry Fodor (1987, 1990, 1994) and the teleo-semantics of Ruth Millikan (1984, 1993). Somewhat inaccurately, I will call this family of approaches the information-theoretic family. To be sure, there is only a rough family resemblance among the members of the information-theoretic family. Indeed, several intense quarrels divide the members of that family one from another, but the precise outcome of those internecine struggles is not directly relevant to the aims of this essay.<sup> 2</sup> Taken collectively, the information-theoretic family yields a compelling picture of the place of at least a crude form of intentionality -- what I call frog-like or type I intentionality -- in the natural order. Though frog-like or type I intentionality is, I think, a genuine species of intentionality, it may subsist in the absence of rational powers. It is that species of intentionality enjoyed by irritable creatures who, following Brandom (1994)