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Teleosemantics, Swampman, and Strong Representationalism

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-288
JournalGrazer Philosophische Studien
Issue number1

King's Authors


Teleosemantics explains mental representation in terms of biological function
and selection history. One of the main objections to the account is the so-called
‘Swampman argument’ (Davidson 1987), which holds that there could be a
creature with mental representation even though it lacks a selection history. A
number of teleosemanticists reject the argument by emphasising that it depends
on assuming a creature that is fi ctitious and hence irrelevant for teleosemantics
because the theory is only concerned with representations in real-world organisms
(Millikan 1996, Neander 1996, 2006, Papineau 2001, 2006). I contend
that this strategy doesn’t succeed. I off er an argument that captures the spirit
of the original Swampman objection but relies only on organisms found in the
actual world. Th e argument undermines the just mentioned response to the
Swampman objection, and furthermore leads to a particular challenge to strong
representationalist theories of consciousness that endorse teleosemantics such as,
e.g., Dretske’s (1995) and Tye’s (1995, 2000) accounts. On these theories, the
causal effi cacy of consciousness in actual creatures will be undermined.

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