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A script theory of intentional content Guirguis, Mazen Maurice

Abstract

Fred Dretske (1981) claimed that the essence of the kind of cognitive activity that gives rise to Intentional mental states is a process by which the analogue information coming from a source-object is transformed into digital form. It is this analogue-to-digital conversion of data that enables us to form concepts of things. But this achievement comes with a cost, since the conversion must involve a loss of information. The price we pay for the lost information is a proportional diminishment in our ability to discriminate the source-object from others that may be similar to it. I argue that this fact underlies an important distinction between what a mental state may be about and to what the state may be directed, Aboutness and directedness are two of four Intentional dimensions on which this project concentrates. The other two are aspectual shape and misrepresentation. The distinction between aboutness and directedness is a part of a proposed approach to Intentionality based on the script theory of Roger Schank and Robert Abelson (1977). Scripts are schemata—organized knowledge structures that guide our understanding of the world around us. Schank and Abelson's basic ideas are extended to yield four different script-types: episodic (related to situations and events), instrumental (related to procedural knowledge), personal (representing an agent's goals and plans), and definitional (involved in object-recognition). The relationship between scripts and the Intentionality of thought is the main focus of this dissertation. An important secondary concern is the viability of externalism and internalism. It is argued that neither of these attitudes is independently adequate to provide a full account of Intentional content. Rather, the proper approach is to confine externalistic influences to aboutness and then characterize directedness in a manner that captures the world-according-to-the-agent. This strategy is implemented in the following way: aboutness is construed causally-evolutionarily; directedness is constructed with the help of the notion of an equivalence class; aspectual shape is shown to be a function of the kind of information a script provides; and an account of misrepresentation is given by comparing the different extensions generated from aboutness and directedness respectively.

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