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TELEOFUNCTIONALISM AND PSYCHOLOGICAL EXPLANATION Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 87 (2006), 403-421

By Jason Bridges


Abstract: Fred Dretske’s teleofunctional theory of content aims to simultaneously solve two ground-floor philosophical puzzles about mental content: the problem of naturalism and the problem of epiphenomenalism. It is argued here that his theory fails on the latter score. Indeed, the theory insures that content can have no place in the causal explanation of action at all. The argument for this conclusion depends upon only very weak premises about the nature of causal explanation. The difficulties Dretske’s theory encounters indicate the severe challenges involved in arriving at a robust naturalistic understanding of content. Content epiphenomenalism is the view that mention of intentional content has no legitimate place in causal explanation—that, for example, one cannot causally explain a person’s actions by citing what she believes and desires. Since explanations of just this sort appear to be a fixture of our everyday thought about other people and ourselves, content epiphenomenalism is a radical and surprising doctrine. Nonetheless, a number of arguments, based on intuitive-sounding metaphysical principles, can be marshaled in its favor. Naturalism is the view that everything that happens or is the case is within the explanatory reac

Year: 2011
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