Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ A Forward-Looking Theory of Content

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

In the 1990s I studied the concept of mental content and especially Dretske's theory, which is discussed in this article. I came to the conclusion that mental content doesn't exist, which put me at odds not only with Dretske and most commentators at the time but also my instructors, colleagues and strangers walking down the street. Since then the theory has gathered some, shall we say, cruft, which requires that proponents find ways to meet some of the objections. This article offers a novel approach, depicting mental content not just in terms of what caused it (whether evolution or experience) but by what it anticipates, "an emphasis not on informational relations chosen from some idealized past or counterfactual present, but rather from the likeliest stable future." Such theories "open up significant space for mis-representation—they can allow for a wide gap between past or current discriminatory abilities and contents—but they constrain that gap with forward-directed epistemic abilities."

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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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Last Updated: Jun 22, 2024 10:43 p.m.

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