PHILOSOPHY 117                                                                                                                                     W.G. Lycan
Fall, 2004

A post-final objection to all existing psychosemantics

    Here is a futher objection.

    Fodor, Dretske and other psychosemanticists focus almost entirely on belief.  (I say “almost” because in his 1988 book Dretske does also address desire, and I feel sure Millikan has done so as well.)  Of course belief is information-carrying in some sense; it represents the world as being a certain way, even if we don’t agree with Fodor that it is a kind of internal, computational representation, and it aims at correctness.  But what about other propositional attitudes whose function is not to be correct representations?  S wishes that P; S wonders whether P; S hopes that P; S fears that P.  It is not the function of any such state to carry the information that P.  So here is yet another dimension along which any existing psychosemantics will have to be extrapolated.

    Possible move:  Appeal to boxes--a Belief Box, a Desire Box, and add Wish, Wonder etc. Boxes, each defined functionally.  The relevant noncognitive attitudes would (trivially) get their respective identities from the boxes.  Now, for any given noncognitive representation, we can assign it its content by saying that it has the content it would have were it in the Belief Box rather than the one it is in.

    That seems ad hoc to me.  Which is no great objection, but a greater worry is, what determines the truth of a counterfactual of the form, "Were this representation in the Belief Box instead of the ------- Box, it would have the content that P"?

    Perhaps it would help to advert to Millikan's consumer semantics.  But I don't offhand see how.  In her paper, although a representation need not indicate or covary with its representatum, the consumers require correspondence to something.  Perhaps she will say that the something of course need not be real, and a representation playing the role of a rather abstract hope (say, the hope that God will vanquish Satan sooner rather than later) does correspond in the relevant way to a real or unreal state of affairs.  But with Justin Fisher among us and being a Millikan expert, I won't speculate further.