Intentionality is an important part of the classic mind-body problem, and naturalists need to give an account of it. This should include an explanation for how mental states can have contents, both propositional and non-propositional. Many types of reductive explanations have been proposed, but none widely accepted. The two most popular are 1) accounts somehow based on causal connections or information-carrying regularities between mental representations and their referents or truth conditions, and 2) functionalist type "conceptual role" or "causal role" accounts based on causal connections among mental states and/or mental representations, possibly extending into the world as well. Two less popular approaches are 3) success semantics (according to which truth conditions are determined by success in some sense) and 4) resemblance theories (whereby representations denote by means of resemblance of some sort, e.g. isomorphism). Teleology, usually in the form of evolutionary function, may be brought in to solve problems that arise for any of the above, particularly in order to solve "disjunction problems" like allowing for the possibility of error and misrepresentation. The "phenomenal intentionality" strategy is a new kid on the block, and there are non-reductive approaches as well, including non-reductive versions of the foregoing, as well as interpretivism (content is determined by constrained possibilities for interpretation) and deflationism (claims about mental state content are largely trivial and uninformative).
Many of these ideas can be traced back to Stampe 1977. The most influential causal/informational approaches are Dretske 1981 (with teleology added in his 1986) and Fodor's asymmetric dependance variant Fodor 1987. Classic sources for conceptual or causal role semantics include Block 1986 and Harman 1987. Millikan 1984 presents the most influential teleological theory; her account blends teleology, resemblance (isomorphism), and success semantics. For interpretivism, see Dennett 1971 and Davidson 1973, and for phenomenal intentionality see Horgan & Tienson 2002.
The Stich & Warfield 1994 introductory collection has not yet been superseded, and Cummins 1989 is an older but still excellent book-length introduction to the subject. Two recent general reviews are Rupert 2008 and Ryder 2009. For introductions to specific approaches, see the following: Information-based: Cohen 2002; Causal (not including information-based): Adams & Aizawa 2010; Conceptual/causal role semantics: Block 1998; Teleological: Neander 2004; Interpretivism: Byrne 1998.
Material to categorize
Information-Based Accounts of Mental Content
Using PhilPapers from home?
Create an account to enable off-campus access through your institution's proxy server.
Monitor this page
Be alerted of all new items appearing on this page. Choose how you want to monitor it:
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers