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Summary

Intentionality is an important part of the classic mind-body problem, and naturalists need to give an account of it.  This should include an explanation for how mental states can have contents, both propositional and non-propositional.  Many types of reductive explanations have been proposed, but none widely accepted.  The two most popular are 1) accounts somehow based on causal connections or information-carrying regularities between mental representations and their referents or truth conditions, and 2) functionalist type "conceptual role" or "causal role" accounts based on causal connections among mental states and/or mental representations, possibly extending into the world as well.  Two less popular approaches are 3) success semantics (according to which truth conditions are determined by success in some sense) and 4) resemblance theories (whereby representations denote by means of resemblance of some sort, e.g. isomorphism).  Teleology, usually in the form of evolutionary function, may be brought in to solve problems that arise for any of the above, particularly in order to solve "disjunction problems" like allowing for the possibility of error and misrepresentation.  The "phenomenal intentionality" strategy is a new kid on the block, and there are non-reductive approaches as well, including non-reductive versions of the foregoing, as well as interpretivism (content is determined by constrained possibilities for interpretation) and deflationism (claims about mental state content are largely trivial and uninformative).

Key works

Many of these ideas can be traced back to Stampe 1977.  The most influential causal/informational approaches are Dretske 1981 (with teleology added in his 1986) and Fodor's asymmetric dependance variant Fodor 1987.  Classic sources for conceptual or causal role semantics include Block 1986 and Harman 1987Millikan 1984 presents the most influential teleological theory; her account blends teleology, resemblance (isomorphism), and success semantics.  For interpretivism, see Dennett 1971 and Davidson 1973, and for phenomenal intentionality see Horgan & Tienson 2002.

Introductions

The Stich & Warfield 1994 introductory collection has not yet been superseded, and Cummins 1989 is an older but still excellent book-length introduction to the subject. Two recent general reviews are Rupert 2008 and Ryder 2009.  For introductions to specific approaches, see the following: Information-based: Cohen 2002; Causal (not including information-based): Adams & Aizawa 2010; Conceptual/causal role semantics: Block 1998; Teleological: Neander 2004;  Interpretivism: Byrne 1998.

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  1. Killing Kripkenstein's Monster.Jared Warren - 2020 - Noûs 54 (2):257-289.
    Here I defend dispositionalism about meaning and rule-following from Kripkenstein's infamous anti-dispositionalist arguments. The problems of finitude, error, and normativity are all addressed. The general lesson I draw is that Kripkenstein's arguments trade on an overly simplistic version of dispositionalism.
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  2. Capacities First.Susanna Schellenberg - 2020 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 100 (3):744-757.
  3. A Metarepresentational Theory of Intentional Identity.Alexander Sandgren - 2019 - Synthese 196 (9):3677-3695.
    Geach points out that some pairs of beliefs have a common focus despite there being, apparently, no object at that focus. For example, two or more beliefs can be directed at Vulcan even though there is no such planet. Geach introduced the label ‘intentional identity’ to pick out the relation that holds between attitudes in these cases; Geach says that ’[w]e have intentional identity when a number of people, or one person on different occasions, have attitudes with a common focus, (...)
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  4. Acts of Desire.Henry Ian Schiller - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy:1-18.
    Act-based theories of content hold that propositions are identical to acts of predication that we perform in thought and talk. To undergo an occurrent thought with a particular content just is to perform the act of predication that individuates that content. But identifying the content of a thought with the performance of an act of predication makes it difficult to explain the intentionality of bouletic mental activity, like wanting and desiring. In this paper, I argue that this difficulty is insurmountable: (...)
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  5. Explaining Representation: A Reply to Matthen.Frances Egan - 2014 - Philosophical Studies 170 (1):137-142.
    Mohan Matthen has failed to understand the position I develop and defend in “How to Think about Mental Content.” No doubt some of the fault lies with my exposition, though Matthen often misconstrues passages that are clear in context. He construes clarifications and elaborations of my argument to be “concessions.” Rather than dwell too much on specific misunderstandings of my explanatory project and its attendant claims, I will focus on the main points of disagreement.RepresentationalismMy project in the paper is to (...)
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  6. How to Think About Mental Content.Frances Egan - 2014 - Philosophical Studies 170 (1):115-135.
    Introduction: representationalismMost theorists of cognition endorse some version of representationalism, which I will understand as the view that the human mind is an information-using system, and that human cognitive capacities are representational capacities. Of course, notions such as ‘representation’ and ‘information-using’ are terms of art that require explication. As a first pass, representations are “mediating states of an intelligent system that carry information” (Markman and Dietrich 2001, p. 471). They have two important features: (1) they are physically realized, and so (...)
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  7. Unfollowed Rules and the Normativity of Content.Eric V. Tracy - forthcoming - Analytic Philosophy.
    Foundational theories of mental content seek to identify the conditions under which a mental representation expresses, in the mind of a particular thinker, a particular content. Normativists endorse the following general sort of foundational theory of mental content: A mental representation r expresses concept C for agent S just in case S ought to use r in conformity with some particular pattern of use associated with C. In response to Normativist theories of content, Kathrin Glüer-Pagin and Åsa Wikforss propose a (...)
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  8. Intentionality, Politics, And Religion.Mohammed Azadpur - 2015 - Religious Inquiries 4 (8):17-22.
    The idea that intentionality is the distinctive mark of the mental or that only mental phenomena have intentionality emerged in the philosophical tradition after Franz Brentano. Much of contemporary philosophy is dedicated to a rejection of the view that mental phenomena have original intentionality. In other words, main strands of contemporary philosophy seek to naturalize intentionality of the mental by tracing it to linguistic intentionality. So in order to avoid the problematic claim that a physical phenomenon can in virtue of (...)
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  9. Phenomenal Consciousness from the Prospect of Representational Theory of Mind.Seyed Mohammad Hosseini & Kambiz Badee - 2013 - Falsafe 41 (1):85-104.
    One of the most important questions in epistemology is the nonphysical realities, like phenomenal consciousness. The main claim of physicalism is real explanations of events and properties are only physical explanations and representationalists are agree too. Thus these realities can explained by the rule of biases of physical and objective events.On the other hand , phenomenalists maintain that conscious experiences and aspect of subjectivity of phenomenal consciousness are not. In this article I attempt formulated the problem of phenomenal consciousness based (...)
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  10. O Livre-Arbítrio em John R. Searle: Uma Contraposição do Naturalismo Biológico ao Fisicalismo e ao Funcionalismo.Daniel P. Nunes - 2014 - Dissertation, UNIVERSIDADE DE CAXIAS DO SUL
    This dissertation aims to examine whether John Searle’s biological naturalism is a more viable alternative to current physicalist and functionalist positions in dealing with the issue of free will. Thus, my strategy is to identify the assumptions of these lines of thought and their philosophical consequences. In order to accomplish this goal the concept of intrinsic intentionality is taken as a guide. I begin by defining what is meant by free will and go on to broadly characterize physicalist and functionalist (...)
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  11. The Code Model of Biosemiotics and the Fate of the Structuralist Theory of Mental Representation.Majid Davoody Beni - 2017 - Biosemiotics 10 (1):99-107.
    In this paper I am advocating a structuralist theory of mental representation. For a structuralist theory of mental representation to be defended satisfactorily, the naturalistic and causal constraints have to be satisfied first. The more intractable of the two, i.e., the naturalistic constraint, indicates that to account for the mental representation, we should not invoke “a full-blown interpreting mind”. So, the aim of the paper is to show how the naturalistic and causal constraints could be satisfied. It aims to offer (...)
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  12. Narrow Structuralism: Paving a Middle Path Between Cummins and Millikan.Matthew J. Nestor - 2017 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 95 (1):109-123.
    Millikan [2000] has levelled a number of persuasive criticisms against Cummins's [1996] theory of mental representation. In this paper, I pave a middle path in the debate between Cummins [2000] and Millikan [2000] to answer two questions. How are representations applied to targets? How is the content of a representation determined? The result is a new theory of mental representation, which I call narrow structuralism.
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  13. Cow‐Sharks, Magnets, and Swampman.Daniel Dennett - 1996 - Mind and Language 11 (1):76-77.
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  14. Mental Representation and Mental Presentation: Reflections on Some Definitions in The Oxford Concise Dictionary: Gregory McCulloch.Gregory McCulloch - 2002 - Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 51:19-36.
    To the memory of Alan White The idea of mental representation occupies a rather prominent place in much contemporary discussion, both in philosophy and cognitive science, and not as a particularly controversial idea either. My reflections here, however, are intended to douse much of that discussion with some cold water. I should emphasize at the outset that I have no problems at all with the very idea of mental representation. What I find quite unsatisfactory is the philosophical or doctrinal underpinning (...)
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  15. How Self-Knowledge Can't Be Naturalized.Andreas Kemmerling - 1999 - Philosophical Studies 95 (3):311-328.
    In his book Naturalizing the Mind, Fred Dretske, among other things, gives what he thinks is a naturalist account of what he calls introspective knowledge.1 I shall not quarrel with his labels; I shall quarrel with what he tries to sell by using them. For him, introspective knowledge is “the mind’s direct knowledge of itself”,2 and he concentrates on knowledge of one’s own current mental occurrences, especially those which belong to the realm of sensory perception. An example he discusses is (...)
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  16. A Theory of Content and Other Essays.Ruth Garrett Millikan - 1990 - Philosophical Review 101 (4):898-901.
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  17. Making It Implicit: Brandom on Rule Following.Anandi Hattiangadi - 2003 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 66 (2):419-431.
    In Making it Explicit, Brandom aims to articulate an account of conceptual content that accommodates its normati vity-a requirement on theories of content that Brandom traces to Wittgenstein’s rule following considerations. It is widely held that the normativity requirement cannot be met, or at least not with ease, because theories of content face an intractable dilemma. Brandom proposes to evade the dilemma by adopting a middle road---one that uses normative vocabulary, but treats norms as implicit in practices. I argue that (...)
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  18. Reaffirmation of Intentionality: A Rejoinder to Monsignor Doyle.Henry Veatch - 1954 - New Scholasticism 28 (3):253-271.
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  19. A Metasemantic Challenge for Mathematical Determinacy.Jared Warren & Daniel Waxman - 2020 - Synthese 197 (2):477-495.
    This paper investigates the determinacy of mathematics. We begin by clarifying how we are understanding the notion of determinacy before turning to the questions of whether and how famous independence results bear on issues of determinacy in mathematics. From there, we pose a metasemantic challenge for those who believe that mathematical language is determinate, motivate two important constraints on attempts to meet our challenge, and then use these constraints to develop an argument against determinacy and discuss a particularly popular approach (...)
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  20. Should Intentionality Be Naturalized?Thomas Bontly - 2001 - Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 49:43-60.
    One goal of recent philosophy of mind has been to ‘naturalize’ intentionality by showing how a purely physical system could have states that represent or are about items in the world. The project is reductionist in spirit, the aim being to explain intentional relations—to say what they really are—and to do so in terms that do not themselves utilize intentional or semantic concepts. In this vein there are attempts to explain intentional relations in terms of causal relations, informational relations, teleological (...)
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  21. Fodor and the Inscrutability Problem.Greg Ray - 1997 - Mind and Language 12 (3-4):475-489.
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  22. A Dilemma or a Challenge? Assessing the All-Star Team in a Wider Context.Nikolai Alksnis - 2015 - Philosophia 43 (3):669-685.
    In their update to Intentionality All-Stars, Hutto and Satne claim that there is currently no satisfactory account for a naturalised conception of content. From this the pair suggest that we need to consider whether content is present in all aspects of intelligence, that is, whether it is content all the way down. Yet if we do not have an acceptable theory of content such a question seems out of place. It seems more appropriate to question whether content itself is the (...)
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  23. The Primacy of Skilled Intentionality: On Hutto & Satne’s the Natural Origins of Content.Julian Kiverstein & Erik Rietveld - 2015 - Philosophia 43 (3):701-721.
    Following a brief reconstruction of Hutto & Satne’s paper we focus our critical comments on two issues. First we take up H&S’s claim that a non-representational form of ur-intentionality exists that performs essential work in setting the scene for content-involving forms of intentionality. We will take issue with the characterisation that H&S give of this non-representational form of intentionality. Part of our commentary will therefore be aimed at motivating an alternative account of how there can be intentionality without mental content, (...)
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  24. The Natural Origins of Content.Daniel D. Hutto & Glenda Satne - 2015 - Philosophia 43 (3):521-536.
    We review the current state of play in the game of naturalizing content and analyse reasons why each of the main proposals, when taken in isolation, is unsatisfactory. Our diagnosis is that if there is to be progress two fundamental changes are necessary. First, the point of the game needs to be reconceived in terms of explaining the natural origins of content. Second, the pivotal assumption that intentionality is always and everywhere contentful must be abandoned. Reviving and updating Haugeland’s baseball (...)
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  25. Introduction: Searching for the Natural Origins of Content: Challenging Research Project or Benighted Quest?Daniel D. Hutto & Glenda Satne - 2015 - Philosophia 43 (3):505-519.
    This paper introduces this special issue which is focused on its target paper - The Natural Origins of Content. The target paper has had a robust and considered set of fifteen replies; a literal A to Z of papers. This extended introduction explains the background thinking and challenges that motivated the target article's proposed research programme. It also provides a sneak peak preview and navigational aid to the special issue’s contents. Brief highlights of each commentary are provided and they are (...)
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  26. Hard Problems of Intentionality.Marc Rowlands - 2015 - Philosophia 43 (3):741-746.
    This paper argues that Hutto and Satne’s three-pronged attempt to solve the problem of intentionality – or, at least, to provide an outline of how this problem should be approached – suffers from two shortcomings. First, the idea of Ur-intentionality is problematic. Second, Hutto and Satne have not provided us with a way of getting from Ur-intentionality to content intentionality.
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  27. Three Concerns About the Origins of Content.Anne Jacobson - 2015 - Philosophia 43 (3):625-638.
    In this paper I will present three reservations about the claims made by Hutto and Satnet. First of all, though TNOC is presented as drawing on teleological theories of mental content for a conception of Ur-Intentionaltiy, what is separated out after objectionable claims are removed from teleological accounts may not retain enough to give us directed intelligence. This problem raises a question about what we need in a naturalistic basis for an account of the mental. Secondly, I think that the (...)
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  28. The Father, the Son, and the Daughter: Sellars, Brandom, and Millikan.Ruth Garrett Millikan - 2005 - Pragmatics and Cognition 13 (1):59-71.
    The positions of Brandom and Millikan are compared with respect to their common origins in the works of Wilfrid Sellars and Wittgenstein. Millikan takes more seriously the ¿picturing¿ themes from Sellars and Wittgenstein. Brandom follows Sellars more closely in deriving the normativity of language from social practice, although there are also hints of a possible derivation from evolutionary theory in Sellars. An important claim common to Brandom and Millikan is that there are no representations without function or ¿attitude¿.
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  29. Why is Swampman Not a Zombie?Yujian Zheng - unknown
    I will consider two related questions in this paper: 1. Is a normative quality essential to mind? 2. Is history essential to mind? Apparently, claiming that they are related implies that history has something to do with normativity. Since these issues are very big, too big to be adequately handled by any short paper, I shall, firstly, confine my discussion to one important source, i.e., Dretske 2001, as my major target, and only treat other related ones peripherally. Secondly, I shall (...)
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  30. The Hard and Easy Grounding Problems (Comment on A. Cangelosi).Vincent C. Müller - 2011 - International Journal of Signs and Semiotic Systems 1 (1):70-70.
    I see four symbol grounding problems: 1) How can a purely computational mind acquire meaningful symbols? 2) How can we get a computational robot to show the right linguistic behavior? These two are misleading. I suggest an 'easy' and a 'hard' problem: 3) How can we explain and re-produce the behavioral ability and function of meaning in artificial computational agents?4) How does physics give rise to meaning?
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  31. Semantic Normativity and Semantic Causality.Lei Zhong - 2017 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 94 (3):626-645.
    Semantic normativism, which is the view that semantic properties/concepts are some kind of normative properties/concepts, has become increasingly influential in contemporary meta-semantics. In this paper, I aim to argue that semantic normativism has difficulty accommodating the causal efficacy of semantic properties. In specific, I raise an exclusion problem for semantic normativism, inspired by the exclusion problem in the philosophy of mind. Moreover, I attempt to show that the exclusion problem for semantic normativism is peculiarly troublesome: while we can solve mental-physical (...)
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  32. Approaches to Intentionality.William Lyons - 1995 - Oxford University Press UK.
    What is intentionality? Intentionality is a distinguishing characteristic of states of mind : that they are about things outside themselves. About this book: William Lyons explores various ways in which philosophers have tried to explain intentionality, and then suggests a new way. Part I of the book gives a critical account of the five most comprehensive and prominent current approaches to intentionality. These approaches can be summarised as the instrumentalist approach, derived from Carnap and Quine and culminating in the work (...)
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  33. Naturalismus und Intentionalität.Geert Keil - 2000 - In Geert Keil & Herbert Schnädelbach (eds.), Naturalismus. Suhrkamp. pp. 187-204.
    Naturalism in theoretical philosophy comes in three kinds: metaphysical, scientific and semantical. Metaphysical naturalism holds that only natural things exist, scientific (or methodological) naturalism holds that the methods of natural science provide the only avenue to truth, semantic (or analytic) naturalism tries to provide sufficient nonintentional conditions for intentional phenomena. The paper argues that analytic naturalism does not render metaphysical or scientific naturalism obsolete, but can be understood as a further step in elaborating upon these programmes. The intentional idiom of (...)
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  34. Millikan and Her Critics, Edited by Dan Ryder, Justine Kingsbury, and Kenneth Williford.M. Artiga - 2015 - Mind 124 (494):679-683.
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  35. Misapprehension, Misrepresentation, Misjudgment, by T.I.I. T. & Misapprehension - 1912
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  36. Conceptual Flux: The Case Against Mental Misrepresentation.Mark David Perlman - 1994 - Dissertation, The University of Arizona
    Naturalistic theories of the content of mental representations almost universally hold that mental content is a function of the use of mental representations. However, use theories of meaning have a problem explaining how misrepresentation could be possible. If all uses count in fixing meaning, then none of them can be misuses, and there can be no misrepresentation . Typical use theories seek to limit the uses which count towards meaning, and they propose criteria which are supposed to make some uses (...)
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  37. The Alienation of Content: Truth, Rationality and Mind.Andrew Milne - 1996 - Dissertation, Rutgers the State University of New Jersey - New Brunswick
    This dissertation is concerned with theories of mental content, and in particular with the relationships between a theory of content and truth and rationality. My strategy is to examine the metaphysics of various approaches to content and ask certain questions. What is it for a belief to be true on a particular theory? What is it for a thought process to be rational? Are truth and rationality useful explanatory properties on each theory? Are they useful normative or action-guiding properties? Does (...)
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  38. Katz-Fodor Semantics and Problems in the Philosophy of Language.Gerald Wade Lilje - 1970 - Dissertation, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
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  39. 5. The Informational Content Of Necessary Truths.MarÍa FrÁpolli & Francesc CamÓs - 2006 - Logique Et Analyse 49.
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  40. How Neurons Mean: A Neurocomputational Theory of Representational Content.Christopher David Eliasmith - 2000 - Dissertation, Washington University
    Questions concerning representations and what they are about have been a staple of Western philosophy since Aristotle. Recently, however, these same questions have begun to concern neuroscientists, who have developed new techniques and theories for understanding how the locus of representation, the brain, operates. My dissertation draws on philosophy and neuroscience to develop a novel theory of representational content. ;I begin by identifying what I call the problem of "neurosemantics" . This, I argue, is simply an updated version of a (...)
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  41. Norms, Revision, and Linguistic Practice: Three Essays on Theories of Conceptual Content.Lionel Stefan Shapiro - 2004 - Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh
    Each of the three essays constituting the dissertation's body explores a theoretical approach to conceptual content, as well as to particular kinds of concepts. A concluding chapter defends a distinction between two varieties of intentionality. ;Chapter 1 identifies a distinctive model of intentionality in Locke's discussion of our "ideas of the sorts of substances." Properly understood, his doctrine of the "inadequacy" of substance-ideas reveals that the sort represented by such an idea isn't settled by the idea's descriptive content. The key (...)
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  42. Teleosemantics and the Genesis of Norms: Co-Opting Brandom.Tim Schroeder - 2002 - Pli 13:145-161.
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  43. DRETSKE, F. I. C. - "Seeing and Knowing". [REVIEW]G. J. Warnock - 1970 - Mind 79:281.
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  44. An Examination of Fodor's Disjunction Problem and the Nature of Misrepresentation From Within Natural Teleological Theories of Intentionality.Meng-yao Peng - 1994 - Dissertation, The University of Iowa
    The purposes of this study are: to examine a teleological and informational theory of the fixation of representational content that has been proposed by Fodor, Dretske, and Millikan, to offer an explanation of the phenomena of misrepresentation, and to show the irrelevance Fodor's "Disjunction Problem" and rebut Dennett's denial of human original intentionality. ;The theory developed was based upon early Fodor's "Yes-box" theory but incorporated both Millikan's notion of "Normal function" and Dretske's notion of "information extraction". The theory thus provided (...)
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  45. Structural Semantics: A New Picture Theory of Representation.Heather Elizabeth Johnson - 2002 - Dissertation, Michigan State University
    Structural semantics is a theory that purports to explain how mental states come to represent or "be about" external objects and states of affairs. According to this view, both mental states and the things they represent can be described as sets of elements structured by relations. It is in this sense that mental states and external states of affairs are what we call "relational systems." A mental state, or "cognitive relational system" represents some external state of affairs, or "external relational (...)
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  46. Motion, Evolution and Content: An Essay on Intentionality.Joao De Fernandes Teixeira - 1988 - Dissertation, University of Essex (United Kingdom)
    Available from UMI in association with The British Library. Requires signed TDF. ;This thesis focuses on the notion of intentionality and mental representation, one of the cornerstones of contemporary Philosophy of Mind. The central proposal running through this work is a naturalized approach to the problem of intentionality whose grounds are pursued in the light of evolutionary theory. The cognitive apparatus is described as an information processing device hierarchically organized , whose shallow level consists of pre-propositional forms of mental content. (...)
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  47. Information, Semantics & Epistemology.J. Christopher Maloney - 1993 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 53 (3):721-726.
  48. Toward a Naturalistic Theory of Meaning.Hugh Thompson Wilder - 1973 - Dissertation, The University of Western Ontario (Canada)
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  49. On the Likelihood of Finding a Satisfactory Naturalistic Explanation of Mental Representation.Anthony Joseph Kreider - 2001 - Dissertation, University of Miami
    The conditions of adequacy for a naturalistic explanation of mental representation were examined, as well as the likelihood of such conditions being met. In particular, Fred Dretske's promising information-theoretic naturalism was considered as an attempt at meeting these conditions. Dretske's thought was traced from his Knowledge and the Flow of Information through his Naturalizing the Mind . It was claimed that Dretske's theory faces insurmountable difficulties, particularly concerning giving a purely naturalistic explanation of representing functions. Other, similar attempts at naturalizing (...)
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  50. FODOR, JERRY A. The Elm and the Expert. Mentalese and its Semantics. [REVIEW]Samuel Guttenplan - 1995 - Philosophy 70:293.
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