The methodological argument for informational teleosemantics

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© Cambridge University Press 2017. The Bare-Bones Version Dennis Stampe (1977) and Fred Dretske (1986) proposed that mental reference to content supervenes on information-carrying functions. Their proposal endorsed two main theses: (1) that mental reference to content is grounded in the normal-proper functions of components of cognitive systems (teleosemantics) and (2) that mental reference to content is grounded in the natural information processed by these systems (informational semantics). My aim here is to make explicit a methodological argument in support of this dual thesis (“informational teleosemantics”). The argument is methodological in the sense that it relies on certain claims concerning explanatory concepts and practices in the mind and brain sciences. This first section gives the bare-bones version of the methodological argument. Later sections discuss each of the premises in turn, and then they discuss the kind and degree of support that the argument provides for the conclusion. Without further ado, here is the bare-bones version: P1: A notion of normal-proper function is central to the multilevel componential analyses (aka “functional analyses”) of the operation of bodies and brains that are currently provided by physiologists and neurophysiologists. P2: The brain’s normal-proper functions include cognitive functions. P3: The same notion of function (mentioned in P1) is central to the functional analyses of cognition that cognitive scientists provide. P4: An assumption in the mainstream branches of the cognitive sciences is that cognition involves information processing. P5: The (relevant) notion of information involved in talk of information processing in cognitive science is a notion of natural, factive information. P6: Cognitive science posits “normative aboutness,” with the norms derived from the normal-proper functions and the aboutness from the natural, factive information. C: Some version of informational teleosemantics (broadly conceived) is supported by the explanations of cognition that the mind and brain sciences currently provide. Though probably implicit in the suggestions made by Stampe and Dretske, this argument has not been fully articulated before. I try to cast some light on the reasons for this in the discussion that follows. Premise 1 The first premise says that a notion of normal-proper function is central to the multilevel componential analyses (aka “functional analyses”) of the operation of bodies and brains that are currently provided by physiologists and neurophysiologists.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Neander, K

Published Date

  • January 1, 2016

Book Title

  • How Biology Shapes Philosophy: New Foundations for Naturalism

Start / End Page

  • 121 - 140

International Standard Book Number 13 (ISBN-13)

  • 9781107055834

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1017/9781107295490.007

Citation Source

  • Scopus