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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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There are two broad strategies in responding to this objection. Dretske points out that representation is not equivalent to indication.

This is because the distinction between correct and incorrect representation is often regarded as a central normative distinction and because a capacity to millikaj is often thought to be essential for representing: An IntroductionCambridge, MA: Everyone will also agree that Swampman cannot correctly think that he is returning home to his wife and sitting in his house, since the house and the wife are not his.

Papineau speaks of learning and Dretske invokes functions that depend on recruitment by conditioning. Please subscribe or login to access full text content. Fodor anyway continues to object that there is a remainder of a problem along these lines because content, he claims, is more fine-grained than selection histories can account for.

On a hopeful note, much good work has been done in exploring the possible range of such theories, in producing interesting in-principle objections and in responding to such objections in biosemantcis that have resulted in better developed or better defended versions.

Millikan occasionally makes it clear that her theory is intended as a version of an isomorphism theory. The teleological theories that are currently biosemanticx offer are generally theories of referential content not theories of cognitive content or mode of presentation. We can describe its function as controlling the frog’s orienting toward frog food, but we could also describe it as biosmeantics the frog’s orienting toward small, dark, moving things.

On this informational theory, the frog does not represent the stimulus as not carrying an infectious disease, even if only those small, dark and moving things that were not carrying an infectious disease contributed to frog fitness when the frog was fed. Millkian, there are ways to block this conclusion.

This appears to be the view of Cumminssee esp.


On Naturalizing the Semantics of Mental Representation. Millikan would in this context ask us to take note of her notions of derived and adapted proper functions. First is the question of representational status: On Dretske’s proposal, the production of a representation determines its content but something does not count as a representation unless it also has a use-related function.

She has claimed that millkian to the consumers is crucial for solving a certain functional indeterminacy problem, a claim to be discussed in section 4.

An alternative response rejects the argument. For example, it entails that CATs have the content cats or crumpled paper in the case just considered. Along similar lines, it can millikann argued biosemantids it is only an epistemological and not a genuine metaphysical possibility that Swampman might have intentionality.

An alternative idea is that the isomorphism does not need to be specified given that the targets of representations are determined by teleological functions. It has really only been since the advent of cognitive science in the middle of the last century and the general acceptance of a broadly physicalist perspective on the mind in the decades that followed that philosophers of mind have devoted much effort to trying to give a naturalistic theory of mental content.

However, on this proposal, that further fact becomes a background evolutionary fact that is not content constitutive.

Ruth Millikan

Similarly, no mechanism can be selected for producing R s because they indicate C s unless some R s biosemantiics C s. 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.

So all of this would seem to be the trait’s function. For example, a penguin’s flippers and an emu’s vestigial wings no longer have the function of flight, even though ancestral forelimbs were selected for flight.

Ruth G. Millikan, Biosemantics – PhilPapers

One reason is that there can be no non-intentional process of selection for something to do Z unless that thing, or things of that type at least, did do Z. For example, no unicorns were ever indicated by UNICORNs, the presence of a unicorn was never a Normal condition for the performance of the proper function of a consumer of UNICORNs, and the desire to find a unicorn has never been satisfied so that the conditions involved in the satisfaction of this desire could not have contributed to selection of the mechanisms that produce desires of the type.


It also needs to account for the normative nature of mental representation. In brief, the idea is that, since science is in the business of causal explanations and causal powers are what are relevant for causal explanations, science should classify items on the basis of similarities and differences in causal powers.

A modest theory only aims to directly account for the contents of representational simples. Dretske’s book, Knowledge and the Flow of Information has also been very influential. Boorse imagines a population of rabbits accidentally coalescing into existence as a counter-example to Wright’s etiological theory of functions. 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.

In view of all of this, the present section can do little more than offer a few remarks about how some versions of teleosemantics make some inroads on the issue.

The point of the story is that Millikan’s theory does not biosemntics the story to be told this way. As the name hints, Millikan’s theory explains intentionality in terms that are broadly ‘biological’ or teleological. Sign in via your Institution. A final point about broad aims is that teleological theories of mental content are usually intended as real nature theories.

The frog would not be in error when it snapped at something small, dark and moving that was not frog food, or not a fly. It is not possible to describe all extant theories but some different approaches are sketched, along with a brief review of some of their strengths and weaknesses. The starting idea is this: It is plausible that sensory-perceptual systems have the function to produce representations that carry information and that this bears on their content.

Plant a red flag among a crowd of snorf and the kimu will eagerly join them. Some who support a systemic theory argue that biology has no need for a naturalistic notion of malfunction e.