David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Southern Journal of Philosophy 37 (1):113-140 (1999)
In her landmark book, Language, Thought, and Other Biological Categories (Millikan1984),1 Ruth Garrett Millikan utilizes the idea of a biological function to solve philosophical problems associated with the phenomena of language, thought, and meaning. Language and thought are activities of biological organisms, according to Millikan, and we should treat them as such when trying to answer related philosophical questions. Of special interest is Millikan’s treatment of intentionality. Here Millikan employs the notion of a biological function to explain what it is for one thing in nature, a bee dance (43), for example, to be about another, in this case, the location of a nectar source. My concern in this paper is to understand whether Millikan’s account of intentionality adequately explains how humans achieve reference, in language or thought, to individuals and groups in their environment. In bringing her theory of intentional content to bear on human activities, Millikan focuses largely on natural language. Thus, in what follows, I begin by laying out the biology-based principles that underlie Millikan’s theory of content, then proceed with an explanation of how the theory is to apply to natural language. As it appears, Millikan’s account of how content is determined for natural language terms and sentences rests on the determinacy of intentional content at the psychological level. This leads me to take a careful look at what Millikan says about the content of mental representations, in hopes of finding a sufficient basis there for the application of Millikan’s theory of content to natural language. Ultimately, I conclude that Millikan’s theory faces a problem of vacuity. If we approach the theory as a theory of intentional content, intended to explain the nature of reference, the theory is lacking in an extremely important respect: Millikan explains how it could be one of the biological functions of a mental or natural language term to refer, without telling us precisely what in the natural order constitutes the reference relation..
|Keywords||Biology Causation Language Mental Science Millikan, G|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
Donald Davidson (1984). Inquiries Into Truth And Interpretation. Oxford University Press.
Jerry A. Fodor (1975). The Language of Thought. Harvard University Press.
George Lakoff (1987). Women, Fire and Dangerous Thing: What Catergories Reveal About the Mind. University of Chicago Press.
Jerry A. Fodor (1987). Psychosemantics: The Problem of Meaning in the Philosophy of Mind. MIT Press.
Citations of this work BETA
Manolo Martinez (2013). Teleosemantics and Productivity. Philosophical Psychology 26 (1):47-68.
Similar books and articles
Pierre Jacob (2000). Can Selection Explain Content? In Bernard Elevitch (ed.), The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy. Philosophy Doc Ctr 91-102.
Justine Kingsbury (2006). A Proper Understanding of Millikan. Acta Analytica 21 (40):23-40.
Marshall Abrams (2005). Teleosemantics Without Natural Selection. Biology and Philosophy 20 (1):97-116.
Ruth G. Millikan (2005). The Father, the Son, and the Daughter: Sellars, Brandom, and Millikan. Pragmatics and Cognition 13 (1):59-71.
Mohan Matthen (2013). Millikan's Historical Kinds. In Dan Ryder, Justine Kingsbury & Kenneth Williford (eds.), Millikan and Her Critics. John Wiley & Sons 135--154.
Nicholas Shea (2002). Getting Clear About Equivocal Concepts. Disputatio 13:1 - 14.
Ruth Garrett Millikan (2000). On Clear and Confused Ideas: An Essay About Substance Concepts. Cambridge University Press.
Ruth G. Millikan (2005). Language: A Biological Model. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Added to index2009-01-28
Total downloads51 ( #67,116 of 1,726,249 )
Recent downloads (6 months)12 ( #56,985 of 1,726,249 )
How can I increase my downloads?