Perceptual representations: a teleosemantic answer to the breadth-of-application problem

Biology and Philosophy 30 (1):119-136 (2015)

Peter Schulte
Bielefeld University
Teleosemantic theories of representation are often criticized as being “too liberal”, i.e. as categorizing states as representations which are not representational at all. Recently, a powerful version of this objection has been put forth by Tyler Burge. Focusing on perception, Burge defends the claim that all teleosemantic theories apply too broadly, thereby missing what is distinctive about representation. Contra Burge, I will argue in this paper that there is a teleosemantic account of perceptual states that does not fall prey to this problem, and that we can arrive at this account by combining some of Burge’s insights with a producer-oriented version of teleosemantics. The resulting theory turns out to be attractive and perfectly coherent. By contrast, the coherence of Burge’s own anti-teleosemantic approach becomes quite doubtful under closer examination—or so I will argue.
Keywords Teleosemantics  Intentionality  Perception  Intentional explanations  Animal behavior  Animals minds
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DOI 10.1007/s10539-013-9390-2
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