Acta Analytica 29 (3):267-284 (2014)

Peter Schulte
University of Zürich
Fred Dretske’s account of mental causation, developed in Explaining Behavior and defended in numerous articles, is generally regarded as one of the most interesting and most ambitious approaches in the field. According to Dretske, meaning facts, construed historically as facts about the indicator functions of internal states, are the structuring causes of behavior. In this article, we argue that Dretske’s view is untenable: On closer examination, the real structuring causes of behavior turn out to be markedly different from Dretske’s meaning facts. Our argument proceeds in three steps. First, we set forth the problem of meaning individuation: We argue that the proposal that meaning facts are structuring causes of behavior commits Dretske to a very fine-grained individuation of meanings that is deeply counterintuitive. In a second step, we show that even these finely individuated meaning facts cannot do the job that they are supposed to do, since information facts—which are constitutive of, but distinct from Dretske’s meaning facts—are better candidates for the role of structuring causes. Finally, we argue that it is not even information facts, but facts of co-instantiation which are the real structuring causes of behavior. In concluding, we briefly consider the options that are left for Dretske if our arguments succeed
Keywords Mental causation  Intentionality  Naturalistic theories of content  Behavior
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s12136-014-0218-8
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 62,577
External links

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

Actions, Reasons, and Causes.Donald Davidson - 1963 - Journal of Philosophy 60 (23):685.

View all 34 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

A Role for Representations in Inflexible Behavior.Todd Ganson - 2020 - Biology and Philosophy 35 (4):1-18.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Mental Events as Structuring Causes of Behavior.Fred Dretske - 1993 - In John Heil & Alfred R. Mele (eds.), Mental Causation. Oxford University Press.
Dretske on the Causation of Behavior.Constantine Sandis - 2008 - Behavior and Philosophy 36:71-86.
Mental Events as Structuring Causes of Behavior.Fred Dretske - 1993 - In John Heil & Alfred Mele (eds.), Mental Causation. Clarendon Press. pp. 121--135.
Psychological Vs. Biological Explanations of Behavior.Fred Dretske - 2004 - Behavior and Philosophy 32 (1):167-177.
?From Natural Function to Indeterminate Content?Sonja R. Sullivan - 1993 - Philosophical Studies 69 (2-3):129-37.
Indicator Semantics and Dretske's Function.Valerie Gray Hardcastle - 1994 - Philosophical Psychology 7 (3):367-82.
Causation by Relational Properties.Wim De Muijnck - 2002 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 65 (1):123-137.
Dretske's Intricate Behavior.Alfred R. Mele - 1991 - Philosophical Papers 20 (May):1-10.
Dretske on Explaining Behavior.Kirk A. Ludwig - 1996 - Acta Analytica 11:111-124.


Added to PP index

Total views
64 ( #165,722 of 2,446,608 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
5 ( #147,742 of 2,446,608 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes