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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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. The following sub-sections describe some key differences among teleological theories.

Teleological Theories of Mental Content

These more proximal items in the causal chain carry information about C to the system and through the system to the R. This last option fits with the traditional idea that seemings have a special epistemic status; it fits with the idea that we cannot be mistaken about how things seem to us and that, in that context, misrepresentation is not possible.

They further argue that the first two options are not viable. A teleological theory of content tries to explain the nature of psycho-semantic norms i.

Intuitively, the relevant milliian of function seems to be normative as well, for biologists routinely talk about systems functioning normally or properly, as well as about malfunctioning, dysfunction, functional impairment and so on.

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.

Ruth Millikan – Biosemantics « « Uberty

All of the chemical activity in Davidson’s brain when he understood words, for example, would occur in Swampman’s brain-analog and certain descriptions of this activity will apply to both equally: Her writings on the topic are extensive biosemnatics this section has only touched on the basics of her view.


On this causal theory, a sensory-perceptual system need not have produced R s only in the presence of C s during selection of the system.

The Methodological Individualism debate is also relevant here, since it questions whether science should have any historical kinds. One possible concern is whether sufficient biosmantics for misrepresentation has been made. A further point about broad aims is that teleological theories of mental content are not usually intended as theories about how we grasp meanings or are conscious of them.

And some philosophers are anyway unconvinced by Fodor and Lepore’s arguments.

More importantly, perhaps, it seems to entail that human REDs will misrepresent if tokened at something not-red, as could happen in red-green color blindness, in color contrast illusions or in unusual viewing conditions. Large issues relevant to assessing the different teleological theories mlilikan content remain to be settled.

The analysis of indication on which his theory of content relies is as follows: It was by detecting small, dark moving things that the frog got fed. For discussion of Dretske’s account of the causal efficacy biosemantids content, see the essays in McLaughlin Misrepresentation has occurred in this case because the target of the representation is not in the extension of the representation; the newspaper is not a cat.

The frog would not be in error when it snapped at something small, dark and mollikan that was not frog food, or not a fly.

Whether a creature lacks a belief-desire structure will in part depend on how we construe this requirement. 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 ways that have resulted in better developed or better defended versions.


While we might be perfectly willing to allow that the magnetesomes in anaerobic bacteria do not represent or misrepresent, the problem of distal content generalizes. X has the function to Z only if there was selection for X -ing in X ‘s segment of the lineage. For example, when we say that it is the function of the heart to pump blood this seems equivalent to saying that hearts are for pumping blood or that hearts are there in order to pump blood.

Teleological Theories of Mental Content (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

biosrmantics Thanks to David Chalmers and Georges Rey for penetrating comments. Beyond saying this, it is hard to give a neat definition of the group of theories that qualify. Wettstein eds Midwest Studies in Philosophy: Other Internet Resources Sober, E.

Where do truth conditions come from? Most of the points that follow have been touched on in earlier sections.

There is, however, an asymmetry, to which the second requirement appeals. Millikan would in this context ask us to take note of her notions of derived and adapted proper functions. Millikan is most famous for the view which, in her paper of the same name, she refers to as “Biosemantics”.

This biosemantice is that, because functions are selected effectsany appeal to representational functions must be an appeal to the effects of representations and not their causes Millikan b, 85Papineau3.

This is not a type-1 teleological theory of content. Millikan considers a related objection to do with omnipresent beneficial background conditions, the prima facie worry being whether her theory excludes them.