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Millikan, Ruth, , . Biosemantics
1989, Journal of Philosophy 86 (1989): 281-97.
Added by: Jamie Collin, Contributed by: Nora Heinzelmann

Summary: The term ‘biosemantics’ has usually been applied only to the theory of mental representation. This article first characterizes a more general class of theories called ‘teleological theories of mental content’ of which biosemantics is an example. Then it discusses the details that distinguish biosemantics from other naturalistic teleological theories. Naturalistic theories of mental representation attempt to explain, in terms designed to fit within the natural sciences, what it is about a mental representation that makes it represent something. Frequently these theories have been classified as either picture theories, causal or covariation theories, information theories, functionalist or causal-role theories, or teleological theories, the assumption being that these various categories are side by side with one another.

Comment: This would be useful in a course in philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, philosophy of biology, or any course in which naturalistic accounts of mental content are relevant. The paper makes use of memorable illustrative examples, which will help to convey its central ideas to students, and addresses objections to the position developed by Millikan. Suitable for undergraduate as well as graduate courses.

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