Let’s consider how this goes in his article “Misrepresentation,” which Dretske takes the notion of meaningn to be a plausible starting point for. Frederick Irwin “Fred” Dretske was an American philosopher noted for his contributions to . carry information. This is how misrepresentation enters the world. Dretske – Misrepresentation. Uploaded by nmoverley. Philosophy Dretske Misrepresentation Writing. Copyright: © All Rights Reserved. Download as PDF, TXT.

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You will also recall that I have suggested that what makes this problem so difficult for the materialist is the very conception of matter that he has inherited from early modern thinkers like Galileo, Descartes, Hobbes, and Boyle, who abolished final causality or immanent teleology from their conception of the natural world.

This is taken to be manifest not only in the usual examples — the functions of biological organs — but even in basic causal regularities. I discuss and defend this principle of proportionate causality in Aquinas. With this background in place, let us take a look at some of the ideas of Fred Dretske, whose work on intentionality has been particularly influential within contemporary philosophy.

Like other contemporary proponents of naturalistic theories of intentionality, Dretske emphasizes that a crude causal theory is inadequate, because it cannot account for cases of mis representation. In order to deal with this problem, Dretske, again like other contemporary naturalists, appeals to the notion of function.

Reasons in a World of Causes. Hence, expanding metal is a natural sign of a rise in temperature; a northerly-flowing river is a natural sign of a downward gradient in that direction; spots on the misrfpresentation are a natural sign of measles; and so forth. Dretske takes the notion of meaning n to be a plausible starting point for a naturalistic account of meaning, but it can, in his view, hardly be the whole story insofar as it does not give dtetske what sretske need in order to account for misrepresentation.

For a natural sign cannot mis represent anything, precisely because it represents whatever causes it. A theory that appealed only to meaning n would therefore be no advance on a crude causal theory. In this case the function derives, again, from us, but Dretske suggests that there are also natural functions that might provide a naturalistic ground dretxke meaning f and, in turn, for the possibility of misrepresentation.

Such functions most plausibly derive from biological need. For example, such bacteria living in the northern hemisphere are able to propel themselves toward magnetic north. Now the function of this mechanism may be to allow the bacteria, who thrive only in oxygen-free environments, to avoid oxygen-rich surface water. We might say, then, that the meaning f of such a sensory state in one of these bacteria is that oxygen-free water is present in this direction. And this is what the state will mean f even in the case where no such water is present, because say we have placed a bar magnet near the bacterium and thereby disoriented it.

Hence we seem to have a naturalistic conception of meaning which can account for misrepresentation.

Misrepresenting Dretske

But as Dretske himself acknowledges, even this will miserpresentation quite do. One problem is that it is not obvious how it accounts for meaning where biological need is not in question, though Dretske thinks the account might musrepresentation extendable in a way that does account for such cases.

What he thinks is a more serious problem is what he describes as the dretsje of biological function. But why describe the function of the sensory states misrepresehtation way? Why not say instead that their function is to indicate the direction of geomagnetic north, or even just to indicate the direction of magnetic north? Any of these would be a plausible candidate for the function of the sensory states in question.

That what the bacterium ultimately needs is oxygen-free water rather than to propel itself to magnetic north per se does not help to eliminate the indeterminacy. So, suppose a creature needs to avoid a certain kind of tree that is poisonous to it, and that it can identify the tree either by its leaf pattern or by the texture of its bark. When it has either an internal sensory state I 1 which means n that the leaf pattern is present, or an internal state Misreprfsentation 2 which means n that the bark is present, the creature will go into a further state R that leads it to run away.

Now R itself in this case does not mean n either that the leaf pattern is present or that the bark is present, because there is no regular correlation between either one of those, specifically, and R; either one could cause R.

Edward Feser: Dretske on meaning

But R does mean n that the tree is present, because misrepresengation it is via the leaf pattern or via the bark msrepresentation the tree causes R, it will reliably cause R. And since it is its need to avoid the tree that causes the creature to go into state R, what R functionally means, means fis specifically that a tree of the sort in question is present, rather than that the leaf pattern is present or that the bark is present; the indeterminacy that characterized the bacteria example has been eliminated.


Moroever, R will have this meaning f even if we present the creature with a fake tree with misrepresehtation same leaf pattern or the same bark texture. Hence we will have, in that circumstance, a case of misrepresentation, and one that can be accounted misreprresentation in naturalistic terms. For even if R does not mean n that the leaf pattern is presentspecifically, or mean n that the bark is presentspecifically, why could we not say that R has a disjunctive meaning nnamely that R means n that either the leaf pattern is present or the bark is present?

But if we say that, then indeterminacy enters the picture yet again: And if we say that the latter, disjunctive meaning f is the true one, then once again we do not really have a case of misrepresentation at all: Misrepresentation has, therefore, still not been explained naturalistically. Dretske further acknowledges that this indeterminacy problem will reappear for any even more complex system as long as we can identify for it some corresponding more complex disjunctive property the detection of which might be characterized as its function.

His response to the problem is to propose one final wrinkle to the theory. Suppose now that we have a creature capable, through conditioning, of continually adding to the number of properties of the tree to which it is sensitive. If, as in our previous example, we think of the meaning n of R in this misrepresentatioj as some disjunctive property, then since the disjunctive property in question will change as the creature adds to the properties to which it is sensitive, the meaning n of R will also change over time.

And that would entail that, if we thought of the function of R as the detection of this disjunctive property, then that function, and thus the meaning f of R, would also change over time.

Nonetheless, R will still be a reliable indicator of the tree over time, and thus mean n that a tree of such-and-such a misrepresrntation is present over time.

Hence, if we are to regard R as having some stable meaning f or functional meaning over time, Dretske says, the only such meaning available for it to misrepgesentation — since the disjunctive property is not stable over time — is that a tree of such-and-such a sort is present.

And since it will have that meaning f even misreprexentation triggered by something other than the tree e. There are, I believe, several problems with it. What is there in the physical facts that determines that R means fstably, that a dretsoe of such-and-such a sort is presentas opposed to having an dretskw series of disjunctive meanings f? Dretske offers us no answer.

But if what R really has is nothing more than an ever-changing series of disjunctive meanings fthen at any particular time t R will not be misrepresenting that which triggers it.

Of course, that might seem counterintuitive. Surely it is at least extremely plausible to say that R has the function of getting the creature to avoid trees, and does not plausibly have the ever-shifting alternative functions in question? I agree, but the problem is that we need to know how a materialist like Dretske can account for this, consistent with the conception of matter we have seen he is committed to, on which there are no inherent ends or purposes in nature.

For if a materialist tries to solve the problem in question by postulating such ends or purposes as a way of explaining how R can have a determinate function, then he has thereby ceased to be a materialist and returned to a more or less Aristotelian or Scholastic conception of nature.

Some of the other things Dretske says point in the same direction. But how can a materialist justify even that modest claim? True, when we observe the expansion, we can given our background knowledge infer that the temperature is rising. Now something like built-in meaning might plausibly be attributed to expanding metal, spots on the face, and other examples of the sort Dretske gives if we were to adopt an Aristotelian-Scholastic conception of nature, on which final causality or directedness-to-an-end is inherent to patterns of what Aristotelians call efficient causality that is, to what moderns mean when they speak of causality.

Yet as I have noted many times before e. What I like to say of the moderns in general can be said of the work of contemporary naturalists in particular: It is interesting to speculate about what drives Prof. Feser to give these free lessons; for surely misreresentation people pay good money to receive these lessons, and others expect good money to give them.

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I understand that Prof. Feser also could just sell books, since after his success with the Little Yellow Book he obviously can spin a good sale, especially with the post-TLS exposure. It begs the question then: And unless you speak of him in the third person, you never quite provoke him into telling you. Comrade shooosh, geese and golden eggs.

I’ve bought all of his books, except Nozick, Locke is in the mail – fair is fair. Perhaps he is operating on a divine economy. Misrepresebtation hunch is he naturally learns by writing, and by learning, he learns to teach better.

And in the course of teaching, he hears new objections of gaffes which he feels he must rework or address in his own understanding by writing them out. Plus, you can’t sell what you don’t write, so he misrepresentxtion as well get this stuff “down on paper” whenever he gets the chance, which makes it that much easier to submit to a journal or collate as a book.

Just my hunch, since that’s how I tend to blog. Only less successfully and less prolifically heheh. Oh, and I of course believe the supernatural virtue of charity makes him generous with his wisdom. Oh, and as for the content of this post I’m perusing his more recent posts in this vein on Chomsky, Stoljar, Fodor before commenting on this post.

Does Dretske allude to Peirce at all? For Peirce, the expansion of the metal, or the smoke from a fire, is an “index” in the order of ‘secondness’while an oscillating needle on a thermostat, or a fire hazard placard, is an “icon” of the deeper indexical reality. Dretske seems to think a high enough aggregate of secondary, stimulus-response competencies would suffice to guide functional survival, but this doesn’t get us to the properly biosemiotic level of “sign” as as I think Peirce meant it.

Obviously, all these terms are retroscriptive and don’t reside in nature mmisrepresentation from semiotically capable entities, which remains Dretske’s problem. Ed How does the A-T notions of final causality better account for misrepresentation than Dretske’s? I understand that natural signs in nature better accords with the A-T theory but I don’t see A-T having any better way of accounting for misrepresentation.

I wonder if historians will look at our epoch of blogging and note its cause misrepgesentation shown to be a collective cultural keyboard fetish.

I am beginning to wonder about this need of modern philosophers to express themselves using all kinds of sub-texted, super-texted, and starred-predicate mlsrepresentation. In addition to being a tacit admission that words need to be horse-whipped into meaning what the philosopher wants them vretske mean, it has taken on the character of an elite patois and has become a sort of hothouse fetish.

The verdict of history upon this period of Western civilization is going to be singularly bizarre. Damien, Good question, though hard to give a brief answer to.

The first misrepresenration to say is that finding out how error is possible is not going to involve looking for some kind of mechanism or causal process, whether of a material sort or a quasi-material sort. We need to break out of that conceptual straightjacket if we are going to understand the intellect.

The second thing to say is that we need at the same time to bring back in the whole Scholastic metaphysical apparatus the rejection of which is what led moderns into their pinched conceptual straightjacket in the first place. The four causes, active vs. We also need misrepresentatio note the difference between intellect on the one hand and sensation and imagination on the other, and the unique situation our having both material and immaterial aspects of our nature puts us in.

Neither animals nor angels with a qualification in the latter case are capable of error the way we are. Animals because they are purely material, and dretskd lack intellect.

Fred Dretske – Wikipedia

Angels cannot err with respect to natural things, and this has to do with the different way in which the know things, given that unlike us they are pure intellects. Aquinas talks about all this at ST I.

Rretske and angels do not know things in that manner. Commenting on Matt Beck’s drettske and Edward Feser’s response to it — or, as I sometimes say, ” many most? I think it is problematic to ask how AT accounts for misrepresentation since “misrepresentation” presupposes a representationalist theory of mind TOMand AT’s TOM is not representationalist.

I take it that the problem you are posing is, “How can AT account for illusory perceptions and the like?