The Apparent (Ur-)Intentionality of Living Beings and the Game of Content

Philosophia 43 (3):651-668 (2015)
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Hutto and Satne, Philosophia propose to redefine the problem of naturalizing semantic content as searching for the origin of content instead of attempting to reduce it to some natural phenomenon. The search is to proceed within the framework of Relaxed Naturalism and under the banner of teleosemiotics which places Ur-intentionality at the source of content. We support the proposed redefinition of the problem but object to the proposed solution. In particular, we call for adherence to Strict Naturalism and replace teleosemiotics with autopoietic theory of living beings. Our argument for these adjustments stems from our analysis of the flagship properties of Ur-intentionality: specificity and directedness. We attempt to show that the first property is not unique to living systems and therefore poses a problem of where to place a demarcation line for the origin of content. We then argue that the second property is a feature ascribed to living systems, not their intrinsic part and therefore does not form a good foundation for the game of naturalizing content. In conclusion we suggest that autopoietic theory can not only provide a competitive explanation of the basic responding of pre-contentful organisms but also clarify why Ur-intentionality is attributed to them in such an intuitive manner.



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Mario Villalobos
University of Edinburgh