Two factor theories, meaning wholism and intentionalistic psychology: A reply to Fodor

Philosophical Psychology 5 (2):133-151 (1992)
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Abstract

In the third chapter of his book Psychosemantics , Jerry A. Fodor argues that the truth of meaning holism (the thesis that the content of a psychological state is determined by the totality of that state's epistemic liaisons) would be fatal for intentionalistic psychology. This is because holism suggests that no two people are ever in the same intentional state, and so a psychological theory that generalizes over such states will be composed of generalizations which fail to generalize. Fodor then sets out to show that there is no reason to believe in holism by arguing that its primary foundation (i.e. functional-role semantics), when properly understood (i.e. when construed as a two-factor theory of content), is demonstrably false. In this paper, I argue two claims. First, I try to show that Fodor has seriously misrepresented two-factor theories and that his arguments against his strawman do nothing to indicate the falsity of the genuine article. Second, I argue that if one accepts meaning holism in the form of a two-factor theory, there is no particular reason to think that one is hereby committed to the futility of intentionalistic psychology. In making this point, I make a brief excursion into the psychological literature during which I discuss the belief perseverance phenomenon, the encoding specificity hypothesis, and a problem in human deductive reasoning. My second argument leads to a discussion of how such a psychology could be developed even if no two people are ever in the same intentional state

Author's Profile

Thomas Senor
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

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