Problem Set 05

1. The Causal Role of Intentional States

In a long essay, explain the following passage from Dretske's article, "Minds, Machines, and Money: What Really Explains Behavior": (30)

If we think of ourselves as "vending machines" whose internal causal structure is designed, shaped, and modified not, as with vending machines, by engineers, but, in the first instance, by evolution and, in the second, by learning, then we can say that although it is the "size" and "shape" (the syntax, as it were) of the internal causes that make the body move the way it does (just as it is the size and shape of the coins that releases the Cokes) it is, or may be, the fact that a certain extrinsic property supervenes on that neurological "size" and "shape" that explains why internal events having these intrinsic properties have the effect on the body that they have. What explains why a certain neurological event in the visual cortex of a chicken - an event caused by the shadow of an overhead hawk - causes the chicken to cower and hide is the fact that such neurological events have a significant (to chickens) extrinsic property - the property of normally being caused by predatory hawks. It is, or may be, possession of this extrinsic property - what the internal events indicate about external affairs - that explains why objects having those intrinsic properties cause what they do.

There is but a short step from here to the conclusion that it is the extrinsic, not the intrinsic, properties of internal events that causally explain behavior. All that is needed to execute this step is the premise that behavior is not the bodily movements that internal events cause, but the causing of these movements by internal events. All that is required, that is, is an appropriate distinction between the behavior that beliefs explain and the bodily movements that (in part) constitute that behavior. For if moving your arms and legs (behavior) is not the same as the movements of the arms and legs, but it is, rather, some internal event causing the arms and legs to move, then although the intrinsic properties of our internal "coins" will explain (via activation of muscles) the movements of our arms and legs, the extrinsic properties, properties having to do with what external conditions these internal events are correlated with, will explain why we move them.

2. In the Eye of the Beholder

In a short essay, explain Dennett's proposed intentional stance response to Searle's Chinese Room Thought Experiment (Dan Dennett, "True Believers: The Intentional Strategy and Why It Works") by illustrating the distinction Dennett draws between the design stance, the physical stance, and the intentional stance with a suitably clear and illustrative example. Is Dennett's response satisfactory? Why or why not? (20)