6
What is a Theory of Content?

6. 1. The Topic

It is noticeably easier to evaluate a theory if we know what the theory is meant to do. The aim of Part II is to make as explicit as possible the constraints which I take a theory of content to be required to meet. This should serve both to delineate the topic, and to locate the theory proposed in Part III within current debates.

A philosophical theory need not be a reduction, but a reduction is the simplest kind of theory. Let us suppose that we are after a reduction of content, in the sense of 'reduction' which was defined in 1.2. That is, we are looking for an account of that in virtue of which content-reporting statements are true, which provides necessary and sufficient conditions (subject to a criterion of factual equivalence) for their being content-reporting, and which is at least non-circular.

The kind of content we are concerned with is the content of propositional attitudes--what is believed, desired, hoped, feared, expected, known, and so forth. If we are to have a reduction of this kind of content, we will have a reductive account of what it is to possess a concept, since possessing the concept "C" is just a matter of having some propositional attitude that . . . C . . . (for some filling of the blanks).

The assumption implicit in singling out the content of propositional attitudes is that there is another type of content, or another way of having content, with which propositional attitude content-- conceptual content is to be contrasted. This might be called informational content. Computers may be said to register and process information; so, perhaps, may parts of organisms, like parts of the visual systems of mammals, for example.

I am assuming, then, that there is a difference between possessing concepts and registering or processing information. This ought to be uncontroversial. Most people are inclined to believe that people have beliefs; hardly anyone really thinks that an adding machine or

-75-

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The Good and the True
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • Notational Convention xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I- Metaphysics and Content 9
  • 1- Philosophical Theories And Metaphysical Schemes 11
  • 2- Conceptualism is Kantian 21
  • 3- Informativeness 33
  • 4- Scientism 41
  • 5- A Proposal for a Scientific Metaphysics 54
  • Part II- The Shape of a Theory Of Content 73
  • 6- What is a Theory of Content? 75
  • 7- Unified Externalism 86
  • 8- The Explanation of Behaviour 106
  • Part III- An Evaluative Theory of Content 141
  • 9- The Core of a Theory 143
  • 10- Intrinsic Assessability 182
  • 11- Truth and Virtue 214
  • 12- Understanding People 243
  • 13- Word-Meaning and Opacity 284
  • Bibliography 329
  • Index 333
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