But there isn’t any reason in the world to take that idea seriously and, in what follows, I don’t.

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Jean-marc pizano But there isn’t any reason in the world to take that idea seriously and, in what follows, I don’t.

 

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There are also those who, though they are enthusiasts for intentional explanation, deny the metaphysical possibility of laws about intentional states. I don’t propose to take that seriously in what follows either. For one thing, I find thearguments that are said to show that there can’t be intentional laws very hard to follow. For another thing, if there areno intentional laws, then you can‘t make science out of intentional explan ations; in which case, I don’t understand howintentional explanation could be better than merely pro tem. Over the years, a number of philosophers have kindlyundertaken to explain to me what non-nomic intentional explanations would be good for. Apparently it has to do withthe intentional realm (or perhaps it’s the rational realm) being autonomous. But I’m afraid I find all that realm talk veryhard to follow too. What is the matter with me, I wonder?4

Second Thesis: ‘Mental representations’ are the primitive bearers of intentional content.

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Both ontologically and in order of explanation, the intentionality of the propositional attitudes is prior to the intentionality of natural languages; and, both ontologically and in order of explanation, the intentionality of mentalrepresentations is prior to the intentionality of propositional attitudes.

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Just for purposes of building intuitions, think of mental representations on the model of what Empiricist philosophers sometimes called ‘Ideas’. That is, think of them as mental particulars endowed with causal powers and susceptible ofsemantic evaluation. So, there’s the Idea DOG. It‘s satisfied by all and only dogs, and it has associative-cum-causalrelations to, for example, the Idea CAT. So DOG has conditions of semantic evaluation and it has causal powers, asIdeas are required to do.

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Since a lot of what I want to say about mental representations includes what Empiricists did say about Ideas, it might be practical and pious to speak of Ideas rather than mental representations throughout. But I don’t propose to do so.The Idea idea is historically intertwined with the idea that Ideas are images, and I don’t want to take on thatcommitment. To a first approximation, then, the idea that there are mental representations is the idea that there areIdeas minus the idea that Ideas are images.

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RTM claims that mental representations are related to propositional attitudes as follows: for each event that consists of a creature’s having a propositional attitude with the content P (each such event as Jones’s believing at time t that P)there is a corresponding event that consists of the creature’s being related, in a characteristic way, to a token mentalrepresentation that has the content P. Please note the meretricious scrupulousness with which metaphysical neutrality ismaintained. I did not say (albeit I’m much inclined to believe) that having a propositional attitude consists in being related(in one or other of the aforementioned ‘characteristic ways’) to a mental representation.

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I’m also neutral on what the ‘characteristic ways’ of being related to mental representations are. I’ll adopt a useful dodge that Stephen Schiffer invented: I assume that everyone who has beliefs has a belief box in his head. Then:

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For each episode of believing that P, there is a corresponding episode of having, ‘in one’s belief box’, a mental representation which means that P.

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Likewise, mutatis mutandis, for the other attitudes. Like Schiffer, I don’t really suppose that belief boxes are literally boxes, or even that they literally have insides. I assume that the essential conditions for belief-boxhood are functional.Notice, in passing, that this is not tantamount to assuming that “believe” has a ‘functional definition’. I doubt that“believe” has any definition. That most—indeed, overwhelmingly most—words don’t have will be a main theme in thethird chapter. But denying, as a point of semantics, that “believe” has a functional definition is compatible withasserting, as a point of metaphysics, that belief has a functional essence. Which I think that it probably does. Ditto,mutatis mutandis, “capitalism”, “carburettor”, and the like. (Compare Devitt 1996; Carruthers 1996, both of whom runarguments that depend on not observing this distinction.)

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  1. Idealism followed, of course.
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