|Abstract||How come we are so successful, unless we are hooked up right to the world? A good question, and one that suggests a way of thinking of our hook-up to the world. Success semantics is the result of that suggestion. It is the view that a theory of success in action is a possible basis for a theory of representation, or a theory of content or intentionality (throughout this paper I shall use these interchangeably). At its most simple we can think of representation in terms of disquotation, as in the famous “Fido” – Fido relationship. Then the idea is that the disquotation of representation is explained or illuminated or even analyzed by the disquotation of explanation, where whatever is represented explains something about the person representing it. And what it explains is primarily the success of the actions that the person bases upon the representing. The view is an heir to the pragmatist tradition. At the most general level, the idea is that we get our way, or flourish, or fulfill our desires or our needs because we get things right about the world. The contents of our sentences are then whatever it is that we get right. The ancestor of success semantics, as of so much else, is Frank Ramsey, who wrote that it is right to talk of a chicken’s belief that a certain sort of caterpillar is poisonous if the chicken’s actions were such as to be useful if, and only if, the caterpillars were actually poisonous. “Thus any set of actions for whose utility p is a necessary and sufficient condition might be called a belief that p, and so would be true if p, i.e. if they are useful”.1 Ramsey did not develop the idea, and it may even be doubted whether his chicken was thought of in representative terms at all. Perhaps it was a primitive precursor..|
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