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WITTGENSTEINIAN ARGUMENTS AGAINST A CAUSAL .university of groningen faculty of philosophy wittgensteinian

Feb 09, 2019

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OFREPRESENTATION Masters Thesis ResearchMaster KKD Author: Jan Willem Wennekes Supervisors: Prof. dr. M.R.M. ter Hark, prof. dr. M.J.B. Stokhof Third Reader: Dr. F.A. Keijzer Date: August, 2006

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Abstract

Daniel Dennett and Fred Dretske are two well known philosophers who have written substantially on representation (also referred to as intentionality or aboutness). Both are under the impression that the correct solution for the problem of representation (i.e. how do representations manage to represent something?) will have to be constituted by a causal explanation of the processes at work. In their philosophy, they have embraced the hypothetico-deductive method of the natural sciences, which functions against the background of a causalist view on the world. Both Dennett and Dretske describe simple intentional systems, such as thermostats as having an internal state that is about an external world property (in this case the natural magnitude temperature) because of some essential causal relation between the internal state and the outside world property represented by it. I therefore characterize their views as the causal theory of representation, since they try to find a causal explanation for representation. In the 1930s, Ludwig Wittgenstein already criticized Russell and Ogden and Richards for similar viewpoints (although there are some dissimilarities). The aim of my thesis is to apply and extend this criticism to the contemporary theories of Dennett and Dretske. In my thesis I first describe their viewpoints on representation. I then give an overview of Wittgensteins method of philosophy, which constitutes an entirely different approach from the scientific method both Dennett and Dretske have embraced. Instead of approaching the problem from a scientific point of view, Wittgenstein believes that the problem of representation originates in a misunderstanding of our own language, e.g. by assuming that because my muscles contracted and because I felt like it are explanations of the same type to the question why did you hit him?. Two of my main arguments against the causal theory of representation are that it fails to make the distinction between (1) causes and reasons and (2) internal and external relations. Failure to appreciate these distinctions results in a number of problems within the causal theory of representation. In the fourth chapter of my thesis I discuss these differences and show how they throw a different light on the nature of representation.

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Acknowledgements

When I finished Artificial Intelligence at the University of Groningen, there were still some philosophical issues left unsolved for me. Thus, while working as a consultant, I decided to follow up on these issues: I quit my job and became a full-time student again. The one thing driving me back to philosophy, as it were, was Wittgensteins work. So naturally, when the time came to choose a subject for my final thesis, the choice was in that direction. Analysing problems and trying to find that particular understanding of it that makes them almost silly and simple on the one hand, but ever so complicated on the other, has always been a very attractive aspect of philosophy to me. And Wittgenstein displays brilliant examples of that approach. This thesis would not have come to the point where it is right now without the help and advice I received from two Dutch Wittgenstein scholars: Michel ter Hark and Martin Stokhof. I wish to thank them for their patience, helpful suggestions and good advice. Thank you for your time and commitment to this project. I also wish to thank the third reader of this thesis, Fred Keijzer, for lending me in his time and his knowledge of both Dennett and Dretske. I am also grateful to other people for their criticism on earlier drafts, their advice in discussions and interest in the project as a whole. Especially helpful were my conversations with and the advice received from Kim van Gennip, Marie McGinn, and Jeanne Peijnenburg. Thank you all for your support. Last but not least, a big thank you to my friends and family who have helped and supported me throughout the writing of this thesis. University of Groningen Groningen, August 2006

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TableofContents

CHAPTER1: INTRODUCTION...............................................9

1.1 MOTIVATION .............................................................................. 9 1.2 RESEARCH QUESTION ............................................................... 11 1.3 RESEARCH METHOD ................................................................. 12 1.4 OUTLINE ................................................................................ 12

CHAPTER2: THECAUSALTHEORYOFREPRESENTATION...................................................................17

2.1 INTRODUCTION ......................................................................... 17 2.1.1 Chapter Outline ............................................................................... 18 2.2 THE PROBLEM OF REPRESENTATION ......................................... 19 2.3 THE CAUSAL WORLD PICTURE .................................................. 22 2.4 THE CAUSAL THEORY OF REPRESENTATION .............................. 24 2.4.1 Representation and Intentionality .................................................... 25 2.4.2 Dennett ........................................................................................... 27 2.4.3 Dretske ........................................................................................... 31

CHAPTER3: WITTGENSTEINSMETHOD.........................39

3.1 INTRODUCTION ......................................................................... 39 3.2 WITTGENSTEINS STYLE ............................................................ 40 3.3 THE NEGATIVE ROLE OF PHILOSOPHY ........................................ 41 3.3.1 The source of philosophical problems: the theoretical attitude ........ 42 3.3.2 Misled by the form of our language: the character of depth ............ 44 3.4 THE POSITIVE ROLE OF PHILOSOPHY .......................................... 46 3.4.1 Ploughing through the whole of language ....................................... 46 3.5 THERAPEUTIC APPROACH .......................................................... 48

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3.6 METHODS AND TECHNIQUES ...................................................... 49 3.6.1 Family resemblance ........................................................................ 49 3.6.2 Language games and form of life .................................................... 51 3.6.3 Grammar ......................................................................................... 53

CHAPTER4: ACRITIQUEOFTHECAUSALTHEORYOFREPRESENTATION...................................................................57

4.1 INTRODUCTION .......................................................................... 57 4.1.1 Chapter Outline ............................................................................... 58 4.2 METHODOLOGY ......................................................................... 60 4.2.1 Philosophy deals with a different category of problems .................. 60 4.3 CAUSES VERSUS REASONS ......................................................... 63 4.3.1 Dennett and Dretske on causes and reasons .................................... 63 4.3.2 The difference between causes and reasons .................................... 65 4.3.3 Understanding is not a form of interpretation.................................. 71 4.4 INTERNAL VERSUS EXTERNAL RELATIONS.................................. 75 4.4.1 Science and Philosophy revisited .................................................... 75 4.4.2 Problems with the indication approach ........................................... 80 4.5 A POSITIVE OUTLOOK ............................................................... 84 4.5.1 What it is to understand a concept .................................................. 84 4.5.2 Learning a language is learning a form of life ................................. 86

CHAPTER5: CONCLUSIONS...............................................93

5.1 RESEARCH OUTCOME ................................................................. 93 5.2 SUGGESTIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH ....................................... 97

BIBLIOGRAPHY......................................................................101

ABBREVIATIONS .............................................................................. 101 FURTHER REFERENCES........................................................................ 101

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"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."

- Albert Einstein

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CH A P T E R 1 I N T R O D U C T I O N

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Chapter1 Introduction

1.1 Motivat ion

I should have liked to produce a good book. This has not come about, but the time is past in which I could improve it. (PI, preface)

These are the final words of the preface Wittgenstein wrote to his Philosophical Investigations, one of the most influential books in twentieth century philosophy. To have written something that displays such a deep insight into the nature of philosophical problems, the forms of our language and the way our mind functions, yet at the same time to feel this humble or even doubtful about it, is typical for Wittgenstein. It shows how deeply engaged Wittgenstein was with philosophy. Many other works, notes and commentaries were to follow this book. One reason why Wittgenstein is intriguing as a philosopher is that he has something to sa