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Choosing between the long and short informational routes to psychological explanation

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Following recent work by Don Ross (Ross, 2000; Ross & Spurrett, 2004), I contrast the influential theories of Daniel Dennett and Paul Churchland in information-theoretic terms. Dennett makes much of the fact that the morphological shorthand which emerges before a witness as she looks upon cohesive aggregates of matter commands some measure of predictive power. This, for him, speaks against eliminating recourse to an intentional vocabulary. By contrast, the eliminative materialism defended by Churchland does not gloss such informational compressibility as an explanatory desideratum, and thus regards the informational noise which accrues at higher levels of description as patently unacceptable. Yet, since it is unlikely, as Ross, Ladyman, and Collier (2007) have recently suggested, that anything remains once we subtract the appeal to patterns, I argue that the ubiquity of informational compression in scientific explanation seriously undermines the claim that talk of the mental could be eliminated.

Keywords: Churchland; Dennett; Intentionality; Patterns

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09515089.2011.631999

Publication date: February 1, 2013

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