Publication 6561

Epstein E. G. (2019) Radical embodied cognitive science and problems of intentionality. Synthese Online first. Fulltext at https://cepa.info/6561
Radical embodied cognitive science (REC) tries to understand as much cognition as it can without positing contentful mental entities. Thus, in one prominent formulation, REC claims that content is involved neither in visual perception nor in any more elementary form of cognition. Arguments for REC tend to rely heavily on considerations of ontological parsimony, with authors frequently pointing to the difficulty of explaining content in naturalistically acceptable terms. However, many classic concerns about the difficulty of naturalizing content likewise threaten the credentials of intentionality, which even advocates of REC take to be a fundamental feature of cognition. In particular, concerns about the explanatory role of content and about indeterminacy can be run on accounts of intentionality as well. Issues about explanation can be avoided, intriguingly if uncomfortably, by dramatically reconceptualizing or even renouncing the idea that intentionality can explain. As for indeterminacy, Daniel Hutto and Erik Myin point the way toward a response, appropriating an idea from Ruth Millikan. I take it a step further, arguing that attention to the ways that beliefs’ effects on behavior are modulated by background beliefs can help illuminate the facts that underlie their intentionality and content.

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