Strategic Content: Representations of Epistemic Modality in Biosemantics

Theoria 84 (3):259-277 (2018)
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A central idea in Ruth Millikan’s biosemantics is that a representation’s content is restricted to conditions required for the normal success of actions that it has as its function to guide. This paper raises and responds to a problem for this idea. The problem is that the success requirement seems to block us from saying that epistemic modal judgments represent our epistemic circumstances. For the normal success of actions guided by these judgments seems to depend on what is actually the case, not on whether or to what extent various possibilities were supported by our evidence. In response, I argue, first, that actions guided by epistemic modal judgments have as their function to implement strategies for handling epistemic circumstances, second, that the successful performance of this function requires that aspects of these circumstances obtain, and, third, that biosemantics can thus understand epistemic modal judgments as representing these aspects. The recognition of such strategic contents introduces complications; I further argue that these are benign.

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Gunnar Björnsson
Stockholm University


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