Content: Covariation, control, and contingency

Synthese 100 (2):241-90 (1994)
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Abstract

The Representational Theory of the Mind allows for psychological explanations couched in terms of the contents of propositional attitudes. Propositional attitudes themselves are taken to be relations to mental representations. These representations (partially) determine the contents of the attitudes in which they figure. Thus, Representationalism owes an explanation of the contents of mental representations. This essay constitutes an atomistic theory of the content of formally or syntactically simple mental representation, proposing that the content of such a representation is determined by the intersection of the representation's correlational and control properties. The theory is distinguished from standard information-based accounts of mental content in allowing that the relevant correlations be contingent while insisting on an efferent aspect to mental content. The theory on offer allows for a natural explanation of misrepresentation, finds a niche for the notion of narrow content, welcomes radical first person fallibility with respect to questions of content, admits of mental ambiguity and recognizes that the future of a psychological agent is a factor in determining the content of the agent's present psychological states

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