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Mindedness: On the minimal conditions for possessing a mind

Aguilera, Bernardo (2013) Mindedness: On the minimal conditions for possessing a mind. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

This thesis explores the grounds for justifying the ascription of mentality to non-human agents. In the first part, I set my research within the framework of scientific naturalism and the computational theory of mind. Then I argue that while the behaviour of certain agents demands a computational explanation, there is no justification for attributing mentality to them. I use these examples to backup my claim that some authors indulge in unnecessary ascription of mentality to certain animals (e.g. insects) on the main grounds that they possess computational capacities. The second part of my thesis takes up recent literature exploring the line that divides computational agents with and without mentality. More precisely, I criticise the proposals put forward by Fodor, Dretske, Burge, Bermúdez and Carruthers. My main argument takes the form of a reductio ad absurdum by showing that their criteria apply to artefacts to which the attribution of mentality is unjustified. Overall, I conclude that even though the views advanced by the mentioned authors help to elucidate the computational grounds that could make the emergence of a mind possible, they do not offer a satisfactory criterion for the ascription of mentality to some computational agents but not others. In the final part I develop my own proposal for grounding the attribution of mentality. My strategy consists in drawing upon the distinction between personal and subpersonal levels of explanation, according to which properly psychological descriptions have whole-agents as their subject matter, use a distinctive theoretical vocabulary, and are constrained by norms of rationality. After showing that the personal-subpersonal distinction is compatible with a naturalistic framework, I adapt the distinction so that it can be applied to non-human agents, and conclude that it imposes constraints in cognitive architecture that point in the direction of cognitive access, generality and integration.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: mind, animal cognition, computation, information, personal-level.
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > Philosophy (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.589169
Depositing User: Mr Bernardo Aguilera
Date Deposited: 13 Dec 2013 15:22
Last Modified: 03 Oct 2016 11:03
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/4480

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