PHL471: Some thoughts on the Problem of Normativity

Some thoughts on the Problem of Normativity

We've identified two questions we can ask about representations: There is near consensus in our sample of readings for the ontological question. The people we have read on representations (Fodor, Dretske, Millikan, Dennett, Churchland) are (implicitly) physicalists and functionalists; they assume a theory of mind will eventually identify representations with events in the body of the organism. But these scholars differ on their views of what explains the normative nature of representations. That is, if we ask each one, "Why is Tom wrong to call that horse a cow?" they will give a different answer.

In this chart, I use the term "referential concept" for a representation of a thing -- like the representation of a fly or horse. This is different than a proposition (like: 'It is raining now') which presumably is a representation of a state of affairs, a way the world is.

I'll use single quotes and capital letters to signify a representational concept. Thus 'FLY' is the representation of a fly.

TheoristTheory of the normativeFaux, simplistic example
Dretske (for referential concepts) A representation is correct when it is caused by the kind of object that would have caused it during the training period. 'COW' representation caused by a horse is incorrect because in the training period a horse would not cause the representation 'COW'.
Millikan (for referential concepts) A representation is correct when it is produced by and consumed by a representational system S; where that production and consumption is similar to the past productions and consumptions of similar systems S in the ancestors of the organism; and these kinds of productions and consumptions gave a fitness benefit to the organism which in part led it to pass on the trait for the system to this individual. 'FLY' produced by and consumed by a frog when it sees the image of a fly on a computer screen is incorrect because the system in the frog that is producing and consuming this representation was inherited by this frog because in the ancestors of this frog, the production and consumption of the representation 'FLY' gave them a fitness benefit only when it was caused by real flies (because this enable those frogs to catch and eat flies, and this made those frog more likely to have children, and pass on the fly-representation-system-trait).
Dennett (for beliefs) Belief that P is correct if this is the kind of belief that I judge a rational agent should have. Belief that this horse seen on a dark night is a cow is incorrect because I judge that you should believe it is a horse and not a cow.
Churchland (for beliefs) Because beliefs don't exist, they don't have a normative nature. Not applicable