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ISPHUM-ISP - Humaniora

Representationalism or Anti-representationalism? Perspectives on intentionality from philosophy and cognitive science

Awarded: NOK 2.2 mill.


Notions of intentionality - of linguistic meaning, mental content, aboutness generally - lie at the heart of our conception of ourselves or others as perceiving, thinking and acting beings. A central question in much recent philosophy has been whether int entionality, fundamentally, is a matter of representing an independent reality ('representationalism'), or rather one of enabling adaptive forms of action and interaction ('anti-representationalism'). In crude metaphors: are thoughts mirrors of reality or tools for coping? With regard to linguistic meaning and thought content, the guiding question has been what role such semantic notions as reference and truth should have in accounting for these phenomena, with representationalists assigning them a substa ntive explanatory role, and anti-representationalists aiming to deflate their import, prioritizing instead notions of warranted move, expression or use. We will examine the reasons for and commitments of rejecting the representationalist view. We will als o consider the idea that meaning and thought has an inherently normative dimension, traditionally central to anti-representationalists, looking in particular at how this idea can be squared with a broadly anti-realist view of normativity, as has been favo ured by many anti-representationalists. Intentional notions have gained prominence in accounts of perceptual experience, and are heavily invoked in cognitive science. While representationalist conceptions of intentionality have been dominant in these doma ins, anti-representationalist perspectives, often inspired by the pragmatist and phenomenological traditions, are increasingly influential. We will investigate the prospects for some notable alternatives of this sort. Finally, but not least, we shall expl ore what interrelations there may be between different forms of (anti-)representationalism, e.g. between anti-representationalism about thought content and, say, enactivist views of perception.

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ISPHUM-ISP - Humaniora