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Simplicity and elegance in Millikan’s account of productivity: reply to Martinez

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This paper responds to a problem, raised by Martinez (2013), for Millikan’s explanation of the interpretability of novel signs in terms of mapping functions. I argue that Martinez’s critique is a logically weakened (and hence more difficult to refute) version of Kripke’s skeptical argument about rule following. Responding to Martinez requires two things. First, we must correctly understand the role of simplicity and elegance in choosing the correct mapping function for a signaling system. Second, we need to understand that mapping functions are descriptions of the features that determine the content of signs; they do not themselves determine the content of signs. Bearing these facts in mind, Martinez’s concern is assuaged. However, we find that this position on the role of mapping functions is not fully consistent with Millikan’s (1990) response to Kripke. I modify her response to Kripke and demonstrate that the alterations do not undermine her view.
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Keywords: Functions; Martinez; Millikan; intentionality; mapping; productivity; teleosemantics

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Linguistics, University of Konstanz,

Publication date: May 18, 2016

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