15.20, Tuesday, 9th November 2010
Speaker: Ron Chrisley
Title: Interpretational intentional realism and non-transitivity
In this preliminary report of research in progress, I present some possible extensions to Dennett’s Intentional Systems Theory. In particular, I consider the suggestion that some problems of relativity might be addressed by 1) an economic metaphor: roughly, one stance is better than another if its benefits (e.g., predictive power) are greater than its costs (e.g., complexity), and 2) an existential condition: roughly, a system x is a true believer if there is some interpreter for whom taking the intentional stance toward x is better than all other stances. The problem with 2) is that it assumes a prior notion of interpreter, leading to circularity. One solution, in its basic form, is to assume a privileged interpreter o (the first-person), in the sense that its status as an interpreter is not fixed by interpretation. The set of interpeters is then o and all systems that o best interprets to be interpreters (i.e., all systems x such that o’s best account of x is to ascribe to x a set of propositional attitudes that themselves constitute an interpretation of some system y). This in turn suggests a further extension: that the set of interpreters be taken to be the closure of the “best interpetable as an interpreter” relation. That is, not only o and everything it best interprets as interpreters, but all the systems those interpreters best interpret as interpreters, and so on. Once this set of interpreters is in place, it can be used to ground the set of intentional systems in a non-relativistic way, as mentioned before. This elaboration is only of interest, however, if transitivity of the “best interpretable as an interpreter” relation does not hold. That is, it is only distinct from the basic form if there are cases where o’s best interpretation of x is that of x interpreting y, and x’s best interpretation of y is that of y interpreting z, but o’s best interpretation of y does not take y to be an interpreter (or at least not an interpreter of z). I consider whether there may be arguments, a priori or empirical, for or against this transitivity. I consider the suggestion that non-transitivity of this sort amounts to a form of “interpretational intentional realism”. Other implications are discussed.