Indeterminacy in recent theories of content

Minds and Machines 8 (2):181-202 (1998)
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Abstract

Jerry Fodor has charged that Fred Dretske's account of content suffers from indeterminacy to the extent that we should reject it in favor of Fodor‘s own account. In this paper, we ask what the problem of indeterminacy really is; we distinguish a relatively minor problem we call ‘looseness of fit’ from a major problem of failing to show how to point to what is not there. We sketch Dretske's account of content and how it is supposed to solve the major problem. After presenting Fodor's challenge as the claim that Dretske has failed to solve the major problem, we articulate a response available to Dretske. Although we do not think the response is ultimately successful, we argue that it is every bit as good as the response Fodor has offered to a similar challenge, in his so-called ‘mixed theory.’ The upshot is this: despite advertisements to the contrary, Fodor's theory, in its mixed version, offers no real advantages over Dretske's regarding the serious problem of indeterminacy

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Pat Manfredi
Southern Illinois University - Carbondale

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