•  1301
    Journal of Philosophy 86 (July): 281-97. 1989.
  •  1112
    On Reading Signs; Some Differences between Us and The Others If there are certain kinds of signs that an animal cannot learn to interpret, that might be for any of a number of reasons. It might be, first, because the animal cannot discriminate the signs from one another. For example, although human babies learn to discriminate human speech sounds according to the phonological structures of their native languages very easily, it may be that few if any other animals are capable of fully grasping t…Read more
  •  608
    In defense of proper functions
    Philosophy of Science 56 (June): 288-302. 1989.
    I defend the historical definition of "function" originally given in my Language, Thought and Other Biological Categories (1984a). The definition was not offered in the spirit of conceptual analysis but is more akin to a theoretical definition of "function". A major theme is that nonhistorical analyses of "function" fail to deal adequately with items that are not capable of performing their functions
  •  323
    Historical kinds and the "special sciences"
    Philosophical Studies 95 (1-2): 45-65. 1999.
    There are no "special sciences" in Fodor's sense. There is a large group of sciences, "historical sciences," that differ fundamentally from the physical sciences because they quantify over a different kind of natural or real kind, nor are the generalizations supported by these kinds exceptionless. Heterogeneity, however, is not characteristic of these kinds. That there could be an univocal empirical science that ranged over multiple realizations of a functional property is quite problematic. If …Read more
  •  304
    Preface by Daniel C. Dennett Beginning with a general theory of function applied to body organs, behaviors, customs, and both inner and outer representations, ...
  •  300
    A more plausible kind of "recognitional concept"
    Philosophical Issues 9 35-41. 1998.
    It's a sort of moebus strip argument. Rather than circularly assuming what it should prove, it assumes one of the things Fodor says he has disproved. It assumes that the extensions of those concepts thought by some to be recognitional are in fact controlled by stereotypes. Why do I say that? Because Fodor assumes that what makes an instance of a concept a "good instance" is that it is an average instance, that it sports the properties statistically most commonly found among instances of that con…Read more
  •  283
    The father, the son, and the daughter: Sellars, Brandom, and Millikan
    Pragmatics and Cognition 13 (1): 59-71. 2005.
    The positions of Brandom and Millikan are compared with respect to their common origins in the works of Wilfrid Sellars and Wittgenstein. Millikan takes more seriously the “picturing” themes from Sellars and Wittgenstein. Brandom follows Sellars more closely in deriving the normativity of language from social practice, although there are also hints of a possible derivation from evolutionary theory in Sellars. An important claim common to Brandom and Millikan is that there are no representations …Read more
  •  278
    Naturalizing intentionality
    In Bernard Elevitch (ed.), The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy, Philosopy Documentation Center. pp. 83-90. 2000.
    Brentano was surely mistaken, however, in thinking that bearing a relation to something nonexistent marks only the mental. Given any sort of purpose, it might not get fulfilled, hence might exhibit Brentano's relation, and there are many natural purposes, such as the purpose of one's stomach to digest food or the purpose of one's protective eye blink reflex to keep out the sand, that are not mental, nor derived from anything mental. Nor are stomachs and reflexes "of" or"about" anything. A reply …Read more
  •  256
    Images of identity: In search of modes of presentation
    Mind 106 (423): 499-519. 1997.
    There are many alternative ways that a mind or brain might represent that two of its representations were of the same object or property, the 'Strawson' model, the 'duplicates' model, the 'synchrony' mode, the 'Christmas lights' model, the 'anaphor' model, and so forth. I first discuss what would constitute that a mind or brain was using one of these systems of identity marking rather than another. I then discuss devastating effects that adopting the Strawson model has on the notion that there a…Read more
  •  252
    Pushmi-pullyu representations
    Philosophical Perspectives 9 185-200. 1995.
    A list of groceries, Professor Anscombe once suggested, might be used as a shopping list, telling what to buy, or it might be used as an inventory list, telling what has been bought (Anscombe 1957). If used as a shopping list, the world is supposed to conform to the representation: if the list does not match what is in the grocery bag, it is what is in the bag that is at fault. But if used as an inventory list, the representation is supposed to conform to the world: if the list does not match wh…Read more
  •  229
    On Knowing the Meaning; With a Coda on Swampman
    Mind 119 (473): 43-81. 2010.
    I give an analysis of how empirical terms do their work in communication and the gathering of knowledge that is fully externalist and that covers the full range of empirical terms. It rests on claims about ontology. A result is that armchair analysis fails as a tool for examining meanings of ‘basic’ empirical terms because their meanings are not determined by common methods or criteria of application passed from old to new users, by conventionally determined ‘intensions’. Nor do methods of appli…Read more
  •  226
    Concepts are highly theoretical entities. One cannot study them empirically without committing oneself to substantial preliminary assumptions. Among the competing theories of concepts and categorization developed by psychologists in the last thirty years, the implicit theoretical assumption that what falls under a concept is determined by description () has never been seriously challenged. I present a nondescriptionist theory of our most basic concepts, which include (1) stuffs (gold, milk), (2)…Read more
  •  210
    II—Ruth Garrett Millikan: Loosing the Word–Concept Tie
    Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 85 (1): 125-143. 2011.
    Sainsbury and Tye (2011) propose that, in the case of names and other simple extensional terms, we should substitute for Frege's second level of content—for his senses—a second level of meaning vehicle—words in the language of thought. I agree. They also offer a theory of atomic concept reference—their ‘originalist’ theory—which implies that people knowing the same word have the ‘same concept’. This I reject, arguing for a symmetrical rather than an originalist theory of concept reference, claim…Read more
  •  198
    On swampkinds
    Mind and Language 11 (1): 103-17. 1996.
    Suppose lightning strikes a dead tree in a swamp; I am standing nearby. My body is reduced to its elements, while entirely by coincidence (and out of different molecules) the tree is turned into my physical replica. My replica, The Swampman.....moves into my house and seems to write articles on radical interpretation. No one can tell the difference
  •  181
    How the various things that are said to have meaning—purpose, natural signs, linguistic signs, perceptions, and thoughts—are related to one another.
  •  178
    Lewis’s view of the way conventions are passed on may have some especially interesting consequences for the study of language. I’ll start by briefly discussing agreements and disagreements that I have with Lewis’s general views on conventions and then turn to how linguistic conventions spread. I’ll compare views of main stream generative linguistics, in particular, Chomsky’s views on how syntactic forms are passed on, with the sort of view of language acquisition and language change advocated by…Read more
  •  160
    Language conventions made simple
    Journal of Philosophy 95 (4): 161-180. 1998.
    At the start of Convention (1969) Lewis says that it is "a platitude that language is ruled by convention" and that he proposes to give us "an analysis of convention in its full generality, including tacit convention not created by agreement." Almost no clause, however, of Lewis's analysis has withstood the barrage of counter examples over the years,1 and a glance at the big dictionary suggests why, for there are a dozen different senses listed there. Left unfettered, convention wanders freely f…Read more
  •  158
    The myth of the essential indexical
    Noûs 24 (5): 723-734. 1990.
  •  146
    In defense of public language
    In Louise M. Antony & H. Hornstein (eds.), Chomsky and His Critics, Blackwell. 2003.
    ....a notion of 'common, public language' that remains mysterious...useless for any form of theoretical explanation....There is simply no way of making sense of this prong of the externalist theory of meaning and language, as far as I can see, or of any of the work in theory of meaning and philosophy of language that relies on such notions, a statement that is intended to cut rather a large swath. (Chomsky 1995, pp. 48-9) It is a striking fact that despite the constant reliance on some notion of…Read more
  •  134
    Language: A Biological Model
    Oxford: Clarendon Press. 2005.
    Ruth Millikan is well known for having developed a strikingly original way for philosophers to seek understanding of mind and language, which she sees as biological phenomena. She now draws together a series of groundbreaking essays which set out her approach to language. Guiding the work of most linguists and philosophers of language today is the assumption that language is governed by prescriptive normative rules. Millikan offers a fundamentally different way of viewing the partial regularitie…Read more
  •  129
    Representations, targets and attitudes
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 60 (1): 103-111. 2000.
  •  125
    Words, concepts, and entities: With enemies like these, I don't need friends
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences 21 (1): 89-100. 1998.
    A number of clarifications of the target article and some corrections are made. I clarify which concepts the thesis was intended to be about, what “descriptionism” means, the difference between “concepts” and “conceptions,” and why extensions are not determined by conceptions. I clarify the meaning of “substances,” how one knows what inductions to project over them, the connection with “basic level categories,” how it is determined what substance a given substance concept is of, how equivocation…Read more
  •  112
    Reading mother nature's mind
    In Don Ross, Andrew Brook & David L. Thompson (eds.), Dennett's Philosophy: A Comprehensive Assessment, Mit Press. 2000.
    I try to focus our differences by examining the relation between what Dennett has termed "the intentional stance" and "the design stance." Dennett takes the intentional stance to be more basic than the design stance. Ultimately it is through the eyes of the intentional stance that both human and natural design are interpreted, hence there is always a degree of interpretive freedom in reading the mind, the purposes, both of Nature and of her children. The reason, or at least a reason, is that int…Read more
  •  105
    Styles of Rationality
    In Susan Hurley & Matthew Nudds (eds.), Rational Animals?, Oxford University Press. 2006.
    By whatever general principles and mechanisms animal behavior is governed, human behavior control rides piggyback on top of the same or very similar mechanisms. We have reflexes. We can be conditioned. The movements that make up our smaller actions are mostly caught up in perception-action cycles following perceived Gibsonian affordances. Still, without doubt there are levels of behavior control that are peculiar to humans. Following Aristotle, tradition has it that what is added in humans is ra…Read more