Journal Article

Individualism and the Nature of Syntactic States

Thomas Bontly

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 49, issue 4, pages 557-574
Published in print December 1998 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online December 1998 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/49.4.557
Individualism and the Nature of Syntactic States

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It is widely assumed that the explanatory states of scientific psychology are type-individuated by their semantic or intentional properties. First, I argue that this assumption is implausible for theories like David Marr's [1982] that seek to provide computational or syntactic explanations of psychological processes. Second, I examine the implications of this conclusion for the debate over psychological individualism. While most philosophers suppose that syntactic states supervene on the intrinsic physical states of information-processing systems, I contend they may not. Syntatic descriptions must be adequately constrained, and the most plausible such constraints appeal to a system's teleological function or design and hence to its history. As a result, physical twins may not realize the same syntactic states.

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Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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