Philosophical Explorations 17 (1):93-109 (2014)

Abstract
In this article, I develop an account of the use of intentional predicates in cognitive neuroscience explanations. As pointed out by Maxwell Bennett and Peter Hacker, intentional language abounds in neuroscience theories. According to Bennett and Hacker, the subpersonal use of intentional predicates results in conceptual confusion. I argue against this overly strong conclusion by evaluating the contested language use in light of its explanatory function. By employing conceptual resources from the contemporary philosophy of science, I show that although the use of intentional predicates in mechanistic explanations sometimes leads to explanatorily inert claims, intentional predicates can also successfully feature in mechanistic explanations as tools for the functional analysis of the explanandum phenomenon. Despite the similarities between my account and Daniel Dennett's intentional-stance approach, I argue that intentional stance should not be understood as a theory of subpersonal causal explanation, and therefore cannot be used to assess the explanatory role of intentional predicates in neuroscience. Finally, I outline a general strategy for answering the question of what kind of language can be employed in mechanistic explanations.
Keywords cognitive neuroscience  explanation  mechanisms  intentionality  mereological fallacy  vision research
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DOI 10.1080/13869795.2013.742556
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The Concept of Mind.Gilbert Ryle - 1949 - Hutchinson & Co.
Mind and World.John McDowell - 1994 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

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