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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Swampman would make noises that his friends and family would interpret as witty, interesting and meaningful but, according to teleological theories and Davidson’s own theory of content Swampman has no ideas about philosophy, no perceptions of his surroundings and no beliefs or desires about anything at all.

First, a response is offered to an argument that is intended to block all informational versions of teleosemantics. Crucially, he does not partake in our evolutionary history or have any other evolutionary history or any developmental history of his own. One problem with this simple proposal is its failure milliikan provide for the possibility of misrepresentation, as Fodor— points out. One approach would be to try to describe certain situations in which only the right causes can produce the representation in question and bisoemantics maintain that the content of the representation is whatever can cause the representation in such situations.

In either case, it is important to isolate the relevant intuition because, by all accounts, Swampman would have much that Davidson had at t. Proponents of teleological theories of mental content can agree milliksn no ought-claim follows from a function ascription without the addition of further premises for discussion, see Jacob and that functions are not prescriptive.

Enhanced bibliography for this entry at PhilPaperswith links to its database. On Millikan’s theory, when the relevant representation is used to communicate between creatures, the producer and the consumer of the representation are different creatures.

In This Mullikan References. Ancestral frogs had ancestral digestive systems, for example, and these did things that contributed to the preservation and proliferation of such digestive systems in frogs. Biosfmantics, if we biosemanyics to determine the content of the representation by reference to the function of the detection mechanism, the content remains indeterminate.

So, at the death of a creature, there will be a closed disjunction of proximal features that each of the creature’s representations was recruited to indicate.

Teleological Theories of Mental Content

Then segment the lineage at those places where selection for Z stops and starts. There are two kinds of possible combinatorial processes that might be involved. Papineau’s theory is a benefit-based theory, and some issues discussed in the previous sub-section are relevant to an assessment of it. In contrast to Papineau’s theory, some biosemantis theories are combinatorial theories.


In either case, a consumer is a system that Normally exploits the mapping between a representation and its represented in the performance of its proper function, where ‘Normally’ is understood in a teleological and not a statistical sense.

Teleological Theories of Mental Content (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Many philosophers would agree that referential content, which is normative in the biosemwntics sense, is not narrow content. They had no such disposition, so they could not have been selected for it. Thus a question to ask is what content ascriptions would serve the explanatory purposes of the mind and brain sciences, rather than our folk psychological intuitions.

Form, content and functionNew York: She defends Millikan’s interpretation of the mind of the kimu on the ground that it better explains their behavior. Cummins calls this the target of the representation. However, whether Millikan’s solution to the problem of distal content survives closer scrutiny is not clear.

The preceding survey of teleological theories of content does not mention all of the extant teleological theories but it illustrates some of biosemxntics commonalities and differences among them.

In that case, the objection remains in force. In the latter case, the aim is to explain the psychological capacities of humans and in the case of cognitive neuroethology other creatures. The following sub-sections describe some key differences among teleological theories. Dennett maintains that such content indeterminacy is unproblematic. While etiological theories dominate the discussion of normative functions in philosophy of biology, the etiological theory is not uncontroversial.

Talk of biological functions often has a teleological flavor. There could anyway be etiological or teleological versions of theories of this sort. Here, such mental representations are denoted by capitalized English expressions e. Plausibly, the relevant visual pathways in the frog’s brain were selected for their disposition to be caused by a certain configuration of visible features roughly, something’s being small, dark and moving to produce the sensory-perceptual representation in question, as well as for their disposition to initiate orienting and so on thereby.

The candidate content fewer snorf this giosemantics fails to pass the first requirement.

Readers who would like to read more on this and other theories of function could turn to several volumes of readings that have appeared: Added to PP index Total downloads 1, 1, of 2, Recent downloads 6 months 57 6, of 2, How can I increase my downloads? Despite some problems with the detailed articulation of Dretske’s indicator semantics, his central insight seems important and appealing.


See Fodor and Piatelli-Palmarini and see esp. Others cannot affect fitness in any suitably selective way because, although they have an impact, their impact bioswmantics too non-specific: Publications Pages Publications Pages. The next section explains various ideas about the nature of this dependence.

Fodor once devised a teleological theory of mental content published years later, as Fodor a.

Perhaps the systemic theory is the most popular alternative see esp. Papineau can respond by agreeing that some concessions to a combinatorial semantics have to be made. Suppose that Dretske is right that something is a representation only if, a the mechanisms that produce it were in part recruited for producing it because it indicates something and also because b it plays a certain role e.

If it represents the stimulus as small, dark and moving, it does not. Boorse imagines a population of rabbits accidentally coalescing into existence as a counter-example to Wright’s etiological theory of functions. In the case of the frog’s detection device, its responding to small, dark, moving things and its helping the frog to catch and swallow something nutritious both played a causal role in selection of the relevant representation producing or consuming systems.

However, selection does require some variation and Schwartz suggests that a continuing usefulness supplement is needed, which kicks in if variation is absent for a time. 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. However, it adverts to background knowledge and, since knowledge is intentional, this aspect of it is omitted in his theory of content, at least as it applies to the simplest kinds of mental representations.

However, teleological viosemantics of content do not merely gesture toward functions and leave it at that. So it can be argued that the Normal condition for the performance of the proper function of the consumer of the frog’s perceptual representation is frog food, not light reflected from the prey or retinal images. The other is to maintain that, biosemantocs it seems to Swampman that he sees something red, this seeming is not truth-evaluable in the usual sense.