Argumenta – Journal of Analytic Philosophy

Tyler Burge (2010) provided a scathing critique of all programs for naturalizing concepts of representation, especially teleological naturalizing programs. He intended to demonstrate that “representational content” is a concept that cannot be reduced to more fundamental biological or physical ideas. According to him, since the 1970s, the concept of representational content has been firmly established in cognitive psychology as a mature science and utilized in adequate explanations. Since Dretske’s program is Burge’s primary objective, this paper concentrates on Dretske’s perspective. Following Burge’s criticisms, I concur that Dretske’s naturalizing program trivializes the complex concept of representational content in cognitive science by applying it to bacteria, protozoa, etc. There is a superior explanation, namely Burge’s alternative idea of “registering information”. I do not believe, however, that this spells the end of naturalization programs. There is no reason to deny that at least some biological functions entail representational capacities with perceptual constancy, if not all. Cases of genuine perception, representing the accurate distal causes of proximal stimuli under various conditions, contribute to fitness. It is not by accident that representational content plays a role in cases of genuine perception. Consequently, I will argue that accuracy and biological fitness cannot be separated.

In this paper, I will accept as given Campbell’s “content view” of sensory experience. When I see a yellow ball directly in front of me, I perceive the world in a particular manner, namely as containing a yellow ball now in front of me. My sensory experience is subject to the accuracy or satisfaction conditions (Searle 1983). The appropriate direction of fit is mind-to-world. If there is a yellow orb in front of me, my sensory experience accurately represents the world, i.e., the representational content is accurate. Thus, when I see a yellow ball directly in front of me, the representational content of my sensory experience is accurate only when…


  Click here to download full article