Representational capacity, intentional ascription, and the slippery slope

Philosophy of Science 56 (3):463-473 (1989)
A long-standing objection to Fodor's version of the Representational Theory of Mind (RTM) argues that in ascribing intentional content to an organism's representational states there needs to be some way of distinguishing between the kinds of organisms that have such representational capacity and those kinds that haven't. Without a principled distinction there would be no way of delimiting the appropriate domain of intentional ascription. As Fodor (1986) suggests, if the objection holds, we should have no good reason for withholding intentional ascription from paper clips. Fodor (1986) has defended RTM against this slippery slope objection. He distinguishes between the kinds of creatures that exhibit selective responses to nomic properties of stimuli (for example, psychophysical properties) and the kinds of creatures that also respond selectively to nonnomic properties of stimuli (for example, being a crumpled shirt). The distinction marks the differences between two kinds of "primal scenes" in which lawful relations are said to hold between an organism's behavior, representational state, and stimulus property. The arguments for the distinction are provocative but counter-examples show them to be inconclusive.
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DOI 10.1086/289501
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