The trouble with homunculus theories

Philosophy of Science 47 (June):244-259 (1980)
The so-called post-Wittgensteinian Oxford philosophers are often criticized not only for failing to provide for the causal explanation of human behavior and psychological states, but also for failing to recognize that psychological explanations require appeal to sub-personal or molecular processes. Three strategies accommodating this criticism appear in so-called homunculus theories and include: (1) that the sub-systems be assigned intentional or informational content purely heuristically; (2) that the intentional or informational content of molar states be analyzed without remainder in terms of molecular processing; (3) that the entire or salient range of mental or informational molar states be accessible at the molecular level, or vice versa. Option (2) proves to be the most radical and is favored by Dennett. (1) relevantly requires a reduction of the intentional. (3) is illustrated in various ways by the views of Freud, Chomsky, Fodor. (2) is shown to depend on (1) or to be idle; and (3) embraces at least in part an appeal to molar-level explanation. The argument developed attempts to show the sense in which discourse about molar and molecular-level phenomena in the psychological context is fundamentally different from macroscopic and microtheoretical-level discourse about physical phenomena. The conclusion drawn is that neither a molar nor a sub-personal level theory is suitably explanatory in the psychological sense: a psychological theory is committed rather to a set of sub-personal components of such systems, that serve to explain molar phenomena
Keywords Explanation  Macrocosm  Microcosm  Physical  Psychology  Science
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DOI 10.1086/288931
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