Biosemiotics 10 (2):195-210 (2017)

In this paper, we defend a representational approach to at least some kinds of non-human psychopathology. Mentally-ill non-human minds, in particular in delusions, obsessive-compulsive disorders and similar cognitive states, are traditionally understood in purely behavioral terms. In contrast, we argue that non-human mental psychopathology should be at least sometimes not only ascribed contentful mental representation but also understood as really having these states. To defend this view, we appeal to the interactivist account of mental representation, which is a kind of a constructive approach to meaning. We follow Mark Bickhard in assuming that only an organism – either human or non-human – capable of detecting its own misrepresentations is representational. However, under his autonomy-based account of biological function these minds are incapable of misrepresentations because these minds are, ex hypothesi, unable to detect error in such representations. To solve this problem, we argue that adding a historical dimension – as in Millikan’s view on mental representations – to Bickhard’s account of function makes mental misrepresentation of mentally-ill minds possible. Using Bickhard’s dynamic account of function, it is possible to explain why delusions and other mental disorders can be seen as locally functional. However, an etiological dimension can further explain why misrepresentations seem to be globally dysfunctional. Even if representational or biosemiotic hypotheses about non-human psychopathology are difficult to confirm empirically, we defend the view that they can enrich our understanding of the causes and development of such pathologies, and may constitute a new progressive research programme.
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DOI 10.1007/s12304-017-9299-2
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Knowing One’s Own Mind.Donald Davidson - 1987 - Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 60 (3):441-458.
Philosophy of Biology.Elliott Sober - 1993 - Westview Press.

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