Intension and representation: Quine's indeterminacy thesis revisited

Philosophical Psychology 18 (4):415 – 440 (2005)
This paper re-addresses Quine's indeterminacy of translation/inscrutability of reference thesis, as a problem for cognitive theories of content. In contradistinction with Quine's behavioristic semantics, theories of meaning, or content, in the cognitivist tradition endorse intentional realism, and are prone to be unsympathetic to Quine's thesis. Yet, despite this fundamental difference, I argue that they are just as vulnerable to the indeterminacy. I then argue that the vulnerability is rooted in a theoretical commitment tacitly shared with Quine, namely, the commitment to the view that the perceptual input to the cognitive system is extensional - differentiating objects, but not the aspects (or, properties) they manifest. Thus, input extensionalism, and not behaviorism, is what forces the indeterminacy. I conclude by suggesting that the solution to Quine's indeterminacy problem hinges on the elaboration of an intensional theory of perceptual input, and of content in general.
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DOI 10.1080/09515080500229878
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