Philosophical Psychology, 12 (1999), 157-180.
This paper distinguishes two conceptions of representation at work in
the philosophical literature. On the first, "contentive" conception (found,
for example, in Searle and Fodor), something is a representation, roughly,
if it has "propositional content." On the second, "indicative" conception
(found, for example, in Dretske), representations must not only have content
but also have the function of indicating something about the world. Desire
is representational on the first view but not on the second. This paper
argues that philosophers and psychologists have sometimes conflated these
two conceptions, and it examines the consequences of this conflation for
the developmental literature on the child's understanding of mind. Specifically,
recent research by Gopnik and Perner on the child's understanding of desire
is motivated by an argument that equivocates between the two conceptions
of representation. Finally, the paper suggests that an examination of when
the child understands the possibility of misrepresentation in art would
be helpful in charting the child's understanding of indicative representation.
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Representation and Desire: A Philosophical Error with Consequences for Theory of Mind Research
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