Instrumentalism, Semi-Realism and Causality Comparing Dennett´s view of the function of folk psychology with the Theory-Theory


Dennett´s theory and his move from instrumentalism to semi-realism



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Dennett´s theory and his move from instrumentalism to semi-realism

In a series of articles Dennett has developed an alternative account to the theory-theory, which is instrumentalistic rather than empirical and thus FP cannot be falsified by neuroscience. Dennett uses the concept of stances and distinguishes three different kinds to explain the behaviour of a system - the physical, the functional and the intentional stance. If we explain the behaviour of a system in the intentional stance, we treat the system as a rational agent, which acts as it ought to do according to the information it is given – a clearly normative approach. Intentional states are useful concepts in predicting behaviour, but are not causally efficacious themselves.


How attractive is Dennett´s theory? He surely got a point in stressing the great explanatory power of attributing intentional states to humans, some animals and other complex systems. Furthermore by construing his theory instrumentally, it is invulnerable to Churchland´s arguments, as they only attack a proper empirical theory. But is this all there is to intentional states?
In earlier papers Dennett terms a system a “true believer“ if it is practical to use the intentional stance, e.g. if it is computationally too costly, or more efficient(I don’t understand this sentence). But the use of “practical“ renders Dennetts theory relativistic; it is possible that we become better in using lower levels of prediction (e.g. a certain level of functional stance) or with the help of “Super Martians“, we might be able to predict other humans behaviour even from the physical stance. Therefore Dennett has modified his view from being purely instrumentalistic to what can be called semi-realistic. In `True Believers` Dennett states:
It is important to recognize the objective reality of the intentional patterns discernible in the activities of intelligent creatures.
Dennett’s theory takes a descriptive element on board. In `Real Patterns` he compares the metaphysical status of intentional states to the parallelogram of forces. They are not real in the sense of theoretically posited entities (illata), but of calculation bound entities (abstracta).
In what follows I will use two arguments against Dennett´s semi-realistic theory. The first was proposed by Stephen Stich as response to Dennett`s article “The Intentional Stance“, the second is an argument about the likelihood of a possible correspondence between at least some intentional and functional/physical states. A top-down and bottom-up example will be used.




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