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Toward an Informational Teleosemantics

In Dan Ryder, Justine Kingsbury & Kenneth Williford (eds.), Millikan and Her Critics. Wiley. pp. 21--40 (2013)

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  1. A Tribute to Karen Neander.Christopher Hill & Carlotta Pavese - 2021 - Biological Theory 16 (4):195-202.
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  • Adaptation and its Analogues: Biological Categories for Biosemantics.Hajo Greif - 2021 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 90:298-307.
    “Teleosemantic” or “biosemantic” theories form a strong naturalistic programme in the philosophy of mind and language. They seek to explain the nature of mind and language by recourse to a natural history of “proper functions” as selected-for effects of language- and thought-producing mechanisms. However, they remain vague with respect to the nature of the proposed analogy between selected-for effects on the biological level and phenomena that are not strictly biological, such as reproducible linguistic and cultural forms. This essay critically explores (...)
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  • Teleosemantics and the Hard Problem of Content.Stephen Francis Mann & Ross Pain - 2022 - Philosophical Psychology 35 (1):22-46.
    Hutto and Myin claim that teleosemantics cannot account for mental content. In their view, teleosemantics accounts for a poorer kind of relation between cognitive states and the world but lacks the theoretical tools to account for a richer kind. We show that their objection imposes two criteria on theories of content: a truth-evaluable criterion and an intensionality criterion. For the objection to go through, teleosemantics must be subject to both these criteria and must fail to satisfy them. We argue that (...)
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  • Naturalizing the Content of Desire.Peter Schulte - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (1):161-174.
    Desires, or directive representations, are central components of human and animal minds. Nevertheless, desires are largely neglected in current debates about the naturalization of representational content. Most naturalists seem to assume that some version of the standard teleological approach, which identifies the content of a desire with a specific kind of effect that the desire has the function of producing, will turn out to be correct. In this paper I argue, first, that this common assumption is unjustified, since the standard (...)
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  • Sensory Malfunctions, Limitations, and Trade-Offs.Todd Ganson - 2018 - Synthese 195 (4):1705-1713.
    Teleological accounts of sensory normativity treat normal functioning for a species as a standard: sensory error involves departure from normal functioning for the species, i.e. sensory malfunction. Straightforward reflection on sensory trade-offs reveals that normal functioning for a species can exhibit failures of accuracy. Acknowledging these failures of accuracy is central to understanding the adaptations of a species. To make room for these errors we have to go beyond the teleological framework and invoke the notion of an ideal observer from (...)
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  • Teleosemantics, Infotel-Semantics and Circularity.Marc Artiga - 2014 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 22 (4):583-603.
    Peter Godfrey-Smith and Nicholas Shea have argued that standard versions of teleosemantics render explanations of successful behavior by appealing to true beliefs circular and, consequently, non-explanatory. As an alternative, Shea has recently suggested an original teleosemantic account (that he calls ?Infotel-semantics?), which is supposed to be immune to the problem of circularity. The paper argues that the standard version of teleosemantics has a satisfactory reply to the circularity objection and that, in any case, Infotel-semantics is not better off than standard (...)
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  • Teleosemantics and Indeterminacy.Manolo Martínez - 2013 - Dialectica 67 (4):427-453.
    In the first part of the paper, I present a framework for the description and evaluation of teleosemantic theories of intentionality, and use it to argue that several different objections to these theories (the various indeterminacy and adequacy problems) are, in a certain precise sense, manifestations of the same underlying issue. I then use the framework to show that Millikan's biosemantics, her own recent declarations to the contrary notwithtanding, presents indeterminacy. In the second part, I develop a novel teleosemantic proposal (...)
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  • Beyond Black Dots and Nutritious Things: A Solution to the Indeterminacy Problem.Marc Artiga - 2021 - Mind and Language 36 (3):471-490.
    The indeterminacy problem is one of the most prominent objections against naturalistic theories of content. In this essay I present this difficulty and argue that extant accounts are unable to solve it. Then, I develop a particular version of teleosemantics, which I call ’explanation-based teleosemantics’, and show how this outstanding problem can be addressed within the framework of a powerful naturalistic theory.
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  • The Senses as Signalling Systems.Todd Ganson - 2018 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 96 (3):519-531.
    A central goal of philosophy of perception is to uncover the nature of sensory capacities. Ideally, we would like an account that specifies what conditions need to be met in order for an organism to count as having the capacity to sense or perceive its environment. And on the assumption that sensory states are the kinds of things that can be accurate or inaccurate, a further goal of philosophy of perception is to identify the accuracy conditions for sensory states. In (...)
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  • Psychosemantics and the Rich/Thin Debate1.E. J. Green - 2017 - Philosophical Perspectives 31 (1):153-186.
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  • Liberal Representationalism: A Deflationist Defense.Marc Artiga - 2016 - Dialectica 70 (3):407-430.
    The idea that only complex brains can possess genuine representations is an important element in mainstream philosophical thinking. An alternative view, which I label ‘liberal representationalism’, holds that we should accept the existence of many more full-blown representations, from activity in retinal ganglion cells to the neural states produced by innate releasing mechanisms in cognitively unsophisticated organisms. A promising way of supporting liberal representationalism is to show it to be a consequence of our best naturalistic theories of representation. However, several (...)
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  • The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Methodology.Herman Cappelen, Tamar Szabó Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.) - 2016 - Oxford University Press.
    This is the most comprehensive book ever published on philosophical methodology. A team of thirty-eight of the world's leading philosophers present original essays on various aspects of how philosophy should be and is done. The first part is devoted to broad traditions and approaches to philosophical methodology. The entries in the second part address topics in philosophical methodology, such as intuitions, conceptual analysis, and transcendental arguments. The third part of the book is devoted to essays about the interconnections between philosophy (...)
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  • Seeing Past Causes: Causation and Covariation in Informational Teleosemantics.Asa Collier - unknown
    Neander presents a causal version of informational teleosemantics, where a non-conceptual state R has the content F if and only if R has the function of being caused by F. In contrast, probabilistic versions of informational teleosemantics claim that R has the content F if and only if R has the function of covarying with F. These two theories ascribe different contents to representational states since PT allows R to have the content F when R non-causally covaries with F. First, (...)
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  • Representation and the active consumer.Patrick Butlin - 2020 - Synthese 197 (10):4533-4550.
    One of the central tasks for naturalistic theories of representation is to say what it takes for something to be a representation, and some leading theories have been criticised for being too liberal. Prominent discussions of this problem have proposed a producer-oriented solution; it is argued that representations must be produced by systems employing perceptual constancy mechanisms. However, representations may be produced by simple transducers if they are consumed in the right way. It is characteristic of representations to be consumed (...)
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  • Constancy Mechanisms and Distal Content: A Reply to Garson.Peter Schulte - 2021 - Philosophical Quarterly 72 (1):229-237.
    Sensory perceptions represent things in the outside world. This mundane fact raises a major problem for naturalistic theories of content: the ‘distality problem’. In a previous paper for this journal, I presented a solution to this problem which makes central appeal to constancy mechanisms. Justin Garson, also in this journal, recently criticized my solution and suggested a Dretskean alternative to it. Here, I defend my proposal by arguing, first, that Garson's criticisms ultimately miss the mark, and secondly, that his Dretskean (...)
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  • Signaling Without Cooperation.Marc Artiga - 2014 - Biology and Philosophy 29 (3):357-378.
    Ethological theories usually attribute semantic content to animal signals. To account for this fact, many biologists and philosophers appeal to some version of teleosemantics. However, this picture has recently came under attack: while mainstream teleosemantics assumes that representational systems must cooperate, some biologists and philosophers argue that in certain cases signaling can evolve within systems lacking common interest. In this paper I defend the standard view from this objection.
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  • Do Constancy Mechanisms Save Distal Content?Justin Garson - 2019 - Philosophical Quarterly 69 (275):409-417.
    In this journal, Schulte develops a novel solution to the problem of distal content: by virtue of what is a mental representation about a distal object rather than a more proximal cause of that representation? Schulte maintains that in order for a representation to have a distal content, it must be produced by a constancy mechanism, along with two other conditions. I raise three objections to his solution. First, a core component of Schulte's solution is just a restrictive version of (...)
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  • Teleosemantics, Selection and Novel Contents.Justin Garson & David Papineau - 2019 - Biology and Philosophy 34 (3):36.
    Mainstream teleosemantics is the view that mental representation should be understood in terms of biological functions, which, in turn, should be understood in terms of selection processes. One of the traditional criticisms of teleosemantics is the problem of novel contents: how can teleosemantics explain our ability to represent properties that are evolutionarily novel? In response, some have argued that by generalizing the notion of a selection process to include phenomena such as operant conditioning, and the neural selection that underlies it, (...)
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  • Information, Influence, and the Causal-Explanatory Role of Content in Understanding Receiver Responses.David Kalkman - 2017 - Biology and Philosophy 32 (6):1127-1150.
    Sceptics of informational terminology argue that by attributing content to signals, we fail to address nonhuman animal communication on its own terms. Primarily, we ignore that communication is sender driven: i.e. driven by the intrinsic physical properties of signals, themselves the result of selection pressures acting on signals to influence receivers in ways beneficial for senders. In contrast, information proponents argue that this ignores the degree to which communication is, in fact, receiver driven. The latter argue that an exclusive focus (...)
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  • Teleosemantic Modeling of Cognitive Representations.Marc Artiga - 2016 - Biology and Philosophy 31 (4):483-505.
    Naturalistic theories of representation seek to specify the conditions that must be met for an entity to represent another entity. Although these approaches have been relatively successful in certain areas, such as communication theory or genetics, many doubt that they can be employed to naturalize complex cognitive representations. In this essay I identify some of the difficulties for developing a teleosemantic theory of cognitive representations and provide a strategy for accommodating them: to look into models of signaling in evolutionary game (...)
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  • Communities of Judgment : Towards a Teleosemantic Theory of Moral Thought and Discourse.Karl Bergman - 2019 - Dissertation, Uppsala University
    This thesis offers a teleosemantic account of moral discourse and judgment. It develops a number of views about the function and content of moral judgments and the nature of moral discourse based on Ruth Millikan’s theory of intentional content and the functions of intentional attitudes. Non-cognitivists in meta-ethics have argued that moral judgments are more akin to desires and other motivational attitudes than to descriptive beliefs. I argue that teleosemantics allows us to assign descriptive content to motivational attitudes and hence (...)
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  • Propositional Content in Signalling Systems.Jonathan Birch - 2014 - Philosophical Studies 171 (3):493-512.
    Skyrms, building on the work of Dretske, has recently developed a novel information-theoretic account of propositional content in simple signalling systems. Information-theoretic accounts of content traditionally struggle to accommodate the possibility of misrepresentation, and I show that Skyrms’s account is no exception. I proceed to argue, however, that a modified version of Skyrms’s account can overcome this problem. On my proposed account, the propositional content of a signal is determined not by the information that it actually carries, but by the (...)
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  • A Role for Representations in Inflexible Behavior.Todd Ganson - 2020 - Biology and Philosophy 35 (4):1-18.
    Representationalists have routinely expressed skepticism about the idea that inflexible responses to stimuli are to be explained in representational terms. Representations are supposed to be more than just causal mediators in the chain of events stretching from stimulus to response, and it is difficult to see how the sensory states driving reflexes are doing more than playing the role of causal intermediaries. One popular strategy for distinguishing representations from mere causal mediators is to require that representations are decoupled from specific (...)
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  • Perceptual Representations: A Teleosemantic Answer to the Breadth-of-Application Problem.Peter Schulte - 2015 - Biology and Philosophy 30 (1):119-136.
    Teleosemantic theories of representation are often criticized as being “too liberal”, i.e. as categorizing states as representations which are not representational at all. Recently, a powerful version of this objection has been put forth by Tyler Burge. Focusing on perception, Burge defends the claim that all teleosemantic theories apply too broadly, thereby missing what is distinctive about representation. Contra Burge, I will argue in this paper that there is a teleosemantic account of perceptual states that does not fall prey to (...)
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  • Can Informational Theories Account for Metarepresentation?Miguel Ángel Sebastián & Marc Artiga - 2020 - Topoi 39 (1):81-94.
    In this essay we discuss recent attempts to analyse the notion of representation, as it is employed in cognitive science, in purely informational terms. In particular, we argue that recent informational theories cannot accommodate the existence of metarepresentations. Since metarepresentations play a central role in the explanation of many cognitive abilities, this is a serious shortcoming of these proposals.
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  • Deception: A Functional Account.Marc Artiga & Cédric Paternotte - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (3):579-600.
    Deception has recently received a significant amount of attention. One of main reasons is that it lies at the intersection of various areas of research, such as the evolution of cooperation, animal communication, ethics or epistemology. This essay focuses on the biological approach to deception and argues that standard definitions put forward by most biologists and philosophers are inadequate. We provide a functional account of deception which solves the problems of extant accounts in virtue of two characteristics: deceptive states have (...)
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  • Explaining How to Perceive the New: Causal-Informational Teleosemantics and Productive Response Functions.Fabian Hundertmark - 2019 - Synthese 198 (6):5335-5350.
    According to Karen Neander’s causal-informational teleosemantics, the contents of perceptual states depend on the etiological response functions of sensory-perceptual systems. In this paper, I argue that this theory is, despite its virtues, unable to explain how humans and other animals are capable of perceiving properties with which no sensory-perceptual system has ever been confronted. After rejecting Neander’s own proposal in terms of second-order similarity and a proposal inspired by Ruth Millikan in terms of simplicity, I offer a solution which equates (...)
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  • The Benefits of Rule Following: A New Account of the Evolution of Desires.Armin Schulz - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (4 A):595-603.
    A key component of much current research in behavioral ecology, cognitive science, and economics is a model of the mind at least partly based on beliefs and desires. However, despite this prevalence, there are still many open questions concerning both the structure and the applicability of this model. This is especially so when it comes to its ‘desire’ part: in particular, it is not yet entirely clear when and why we should expect organisms to be desire-based—understood so as to imply (...)
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  • The Benefits of Rule Following: A New Account of the Evolution of Desires.Armin Schulz - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (4):595-603.
    A key component of much current research in behavioral ecology, cognitive science, and economics is a model of the mind at least partly based on beliefs and desires. However, despite this prevalence, there are still many open questions concerning both the structure and the applicability of this model. This is especially so when it comes to its ‘desire’ part: in particular, it is not yet entirely clear when and why we should expect organisms to be desire-based—understood so as to imply (...)
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  • Rescuing Tracking Theories of Morality.Marc Artiga - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (12):3357-3374.
    Street’s :109–166, 2006) Darwinian Dilemma purports to show that evolutionary considerations are in tension with realist theories of value, which include moral realism. According to this argument, moral realism can only be defended by assuming an implausible tracking relation between moral attitudes and moral facts. In this essay, I argue that this tracking relation is not as implausible as most people have assumed by showing that the three main objections against it are flawed. Since this is a key premise in (...)
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  • Es Pot Naturalitzar la Intencionalitat?Marc Artiga - 2016 - Quaderns de Filosofia 3 (2).
    Intentionality is a central feature of our understanding of the world. We daily attribute intentional states (like beliefs, desires or perceptual states) to explain the behavior of other agents, and many theories appeal to them to understand more complex notions. Nonetheless, intentional states are puzzling entities. This article explains what intentionality is and why it is so important and problematic at the same time. Secondly, it examines various naturalistic theories, which seek to show that intentionality is compatible with a scientific (...)
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  • Delusions as Harmful Malfunctioning Beliefs.Kengo Miyazono - 2015 - Consciousness and Cognition 33:561-573.
    Delusional beliefs are typically pathological. Being pathological is clearly distinguished from being false or being irrational. Anna might falsely believe that his husband is having an affair but it might just be a simple mistake. Again, Sam might irrationally believe, without good evidence, that he is smarter than his colleagues, but it might just be a healthy self-deceptive belief. On the other hand, when a patient with brain damage caused by a car accident believes that his father was replaced by (...)
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  • Natural Probabilistic Information.Daniel M. Kraemer - 2015 - Synthese 192 (9):2901-2919.
    Natural information refers to the information carried by natural signs such as that smoke is thought to carry natural information about fire. A number of influential philosophers have argued that natural information can also be utilized in a theory of mental content. The most widely discussed account of natural information holds that it results from an extremely strong relation between sign and signified. Critics have responded that it is doubtful that there are many strong relations of this sort in the (...)
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  • Teleological Theories of Mental Content.Karen Neander - 2004 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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