Dretske on the causal efficacy of meaning

Mind and Language 9 (2):181-202 (1994)
The object of this paper is to discuss several issues raised by Fred Dretske’s account of the causal efficacy of content, as given in his book Explaining Behavior. To warrant the causal efficacy of folk-psychological properties while keeping attached to a naturalistic framework, Fred Dretske proposes that these properties are causes of a peculiar type, what he calls structuring causes. Structuring causes are not postulated ad hoc, to somehow account for the causal efficacy of content. Dretske claims that we independently need this dualism of causes to make sense of some of our (not necessarily involving mental states) causal explanations. Even if this variety of dualism is not untenable from a openly-minded physicalistic viewpoint, it seems for several reasons preferable to establish that content properties are causally efficacious in the same sense that physical properties are. The main point I will try to make in this paper is a metaphysical one, namely, that Drestke’s structuring causes are causes of a more ordinary kind. I will try to show that we can make sense of the phenomena that structuring causes are introduced to account for in more conservative terms, having only recourse to the material we must anyway posit to understand ordinary causal explanations.
Keywords Content  Epistemology  Knowledge  Meaning  Supervenience  Dretske, F
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DOI 10.1111/j.1468-0017.1994.tb00222.x
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Tyler Burge (1986). Individualism and Psychology. Philosophical Review 95 (January):3-45.

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