Optimality vs. intent: Limitations of Dennett's artifact hermeneutics

Philosophical Psychology 21 (6):779 – 797 (2008)
Dennett has argued that when people interpret artifacts and other designed objects ( such as biological items ) they rely on optimality considerations , rather than on designer's intentions. On his view , we infer an item's function by finding out what it is best at; and such functional attribution is more reliable than when we depend on the intention it was developed with. This paper examines research in cognitive psychology and archaeology , and argues that Dennett's account is implausible. We conclude that , quite in contrast to Dennett , intentional considerations play a crucial role in artifact hermeneutics , and even stronger , are necessary for the sake of simplicity and precision. Finally , we question Dennett's contention that the interpretation of artifacts is the same project as the interpretation of any other designed entity
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DOI 10.1080/09515080802516204
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Maarten Boudry & Massimo Pigliucci (2013). The Mismeasure of Machine: Synthetic Biology and the Trouble with Engineering Metaphors. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (4):660-668.
Pawel Garbacz (2013). Artefacts and Family Resemblance. Review of Philosophy and Psychology 4 (3):419-447.

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