Reduction, Elimination and Radical Uninterpretability

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In this paper I argue that the anti-reductionist thesis supports a case for the uselessness of intentional idioms in the interpretation of highly flexible, self-modifying agents that I refer to as “hyperplastic” agents. An agent is hyperplastic if it can make arbitrarily fine changes to any part of its functional or physical structure without compromising its agency or its capacity for hyperplasticity. Using Davidson’s anomalous monism (AM) as an exemplar of anti-reductionism, I argue that AM implies that no hyperplastic could use intentional psychology to predict its future intentional states or the psychological consequences of self-alterations. This is because AM implies there would be no laws allowing the hyperplastic to infer the psychological consequences of its self-alterations. This implies that no generalisations linking current to future psychological states would hold either - these could always be defeated by a self-intervention carried out by the hyperplastic. By the same token, neither hyperplastics nor human interpreters could use intentional psychology to understand the behaviour of other hyperplastics. Radical interpretation of hyperplastic agents - if such there were - would be impossible. It follows that were humans to become hyperplastic posthumans, intentional psychology would have to be instrumentally eliminated because neither the capacity nor the linguistic idiom for attributing propositional attitudes would retain predictive or hermeneutic utility.
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First archival date: 2015-11-21
Latest version: 4 (2015-11-21)
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