The University of Sussex

On Being Inexplicit

Jake Chandler

Dennett's singular position on the status of beliefs and desires can be characterised by a negative claim: beliefs and desires are not necessarily internal states involved in the aetiology of behaviour. Motivating this claim is the recognition of a class of belief/desire assignments in which there is no explicit representation tokened in the system: we are said to be dealing with 'inexplicit', or 'tacit' representation. But what exactly is 'tacit' representation? The problem is to find a naturalistic alternative to the account of beliefs and desires as internal content-bearing states, which will embrace this class of inexplicit representation, both supporting univocal assignments and granting these assignments explanatory bite. While everyone is familiar with Dennett's 'Intentional Stance' story, an alternative position is found to be compatible with, and indeed even suggested by his writings. An appeal to biological teleology is made, normal conditions for proper functioning of behaviour being said to be tacitly believed (in case there is no internal state purporting to coordinate behaviour with the presence or absence of those conditions), and normal telic outcomes of behaviour said to be tactitly desired (again in case there is no internal state purporting to elicit behaviour in the presence of appropriate conditions). The concepts of belief and desire are cast in terms of relational properties holding between an organism and states of affairs by virtue of the possession of a trait with a certain function.


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