The rapid development of connectionist models in computer science and of powerful computational tools in neuroscience has encouraged eliminativist materialist philosophers to propose specific alternatives to traditional mentalistic theories of mind. One of the problems associated with such a move is that elimination of the mental would seem to remove access to ideas like truth as the foundations of normative epistemology. Thus, a successful elimination of propositional or sentential theories of mind must not only replace them for purposes of our (...) psychology, it must also replace them for purposes of the evaluation of our theories and explanations, psychological and otherwise. This paper briefly reviews eliminativist arguments for doubting the correctness of sentential accounts of explanation, understanding, and normative evaluation. It then considers Paul Churchland's (1989) proposed alternative norms, which are framed neurocomputationally. The alternative is found wanting in several specific ways. The arguments for eliminating propositionally-based norms are then re-examined and it is suggested that the need for wholesale elimination is overstated. A clear gap in the traditional epistemological story is identified, however, and a more modest set of norms is proposed as a way of filling this gap, rather than as a way of entirely replacing the traditional framework. (shrink)
It is suggested that general-purpose cognitive modules are the proper endophenotypes on which evolution has operated, not special purpose belief modules. These general-purpose modules operate to extract adaptive cultural patterns. Belief in souls may be adaptive and based in evolved systems without requiring that a specific cognitive system has evolved to support just such beliefs.
Reasons are given for believing that it is premature to abandon the idea that domain-general models of concept learning can explain how human beings understand the biological world. Questions are raised about whether the evidence for domain specificity is convincing, and it is suggested that two constraints on domain-general concept learning models may be sufficient to account for the available data.
A realist story of concepts like Millikan's can and should accommodate facts about how the context of items available for comparison during concept formation affects just what concept is formed or reidentified. Similarly, the contribution of the goals and purposes of the conceptualizer are relevant to how concepts are acquired and deployed, but can be understood as entirely consistent with a view of concepts as objectively evaluable.
Paisley Livingston here addresses contemporary controversies over the role of "theory" within the humanistic disciplines. In the process, he suggests ways in which significant modern texts in the philosophy of science relate to the study of literature. Livingston first surveys prevalent views of theory, and then proposes an alternative: theory, an indispensable element in the study of literature, should be understood as a Cogently argued and informed in its judgments, this book points the way to a fuller understanding (...) of the special contribution that literary knowledge may make within the human sciences. (shrink)
Jerry Fodor's Asymmetric Dependency Theory (ADT) of meaning is discussed in the context of his attempt to avoid holism and the relativism it entails. Questions are raised about the implications of the theory for psychological theories of meaning, and brief suggestions are offered for how to more closely link a theory of meaning to a theory of perception.
Even if everything is up for grabs in philosophy, some things are very difficult to doubt. It is hard to believe, for example, that no one ever acts intentionally. Even the most powerful arguments for the unreality of intentional action could do no more, we believe, than place one in roughly the position in which pre-Aristotelian Greeks found themselves when presented with one of Zeno's arguments that nothing can move from any given point A to any other point B. One (...) argument has it, for example, that in order to move from one point to another, a thing must first move to the half-way point; to do that, it must move half way to that point; and so on forever: so nothing ever moves at all. The argument undoubtedly stopped some auditors in their tracks; but eventually they moved on, most of them fully confident that they were doing precisely that. (shrink)
This is a deceptively profound, compact book that can be inscribed in the grand tradition of philosophical dialogue. It confronts naive realism and radical constructivism, arriving at a seemingly workable conciliatory position.