Mental Files

Philosophy Compass 19 (3) (2024)
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The so-called ‘mental files theory’ in the philosophy of mind stems from an analogy comparing object-concepts to ‘files’, and the mind to a ‘filing system’. Though this analogy appears in philosophy of mind and language from the 1970s onward, it remains unclear to many how it should be interpreted. The central commitments of the mental files theory therefore also remain unclear. Based on influential uses of the file analogy within philosophy, I elaborate three central explanatory roles for mental files. Next, I outline several common criticisms of the file picture, which have been a source of resistance to the view. Finally, I outline several interpretations of the theory, thus highlighting that the best interpretation of the file-theory's central analogy remains a live issue.

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Rachel Goodman
University of Illinois, Chicago


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