Rationality, function, and content

Philosophical Studies 65 (1-2):129-151 (1992)
Abstract
To summarize, in order for rational agents to be able to engage in the sophisticated kinds of reasoning exemplified by human beings, they must be able to introspect much of their cognition. The problem of other minds and the problem of knowing the mental states of others will arise automatically for any rational agent that is able to introspect its own cognition. The most that a rational agent can reasonably believe about other rational agents is that they have rational architectures similar to its own, and that they have thoughts related to their rational architectures in certain ways. This leads to Rational Functionalism as an account of what it is to be a cognizer having mental states. That in turn entails that a computer can be a person in precisely the same sense as my next door neighbor if it can appropriately mimic my rational architecture. There is nothing I could know about my neighbor that I could not believe with equal justification about the computer. Rational Functionalism also makes it reasonable to define the narrow content of a thought to be its overall place in the agent's rational architecture, that is, its conceptual role. This is, however, avery narrow notion of content. For practical purposes, we are not interested in knowing the narrow contents of other people's thoughts. We are only interested in rather general properties of those narrow contents. This is what is expressed by the use ofthat-clauses in public language
Keywords Content  Epistemology  Function  Mental States  Rationality
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