Archive for October, 2012

121029 – Function and Teleology

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Tyler Burge talks about representational function as if it is something that the human perceptual system has.  He says that a representational function succeeds if it represents veridically.  But that really doesn’t properly characterize the human perceptual system.  I end up feeling that the analysis is running the wrong way.

What we are concerned about is not what the perceptual system is supposed to do, that is, what we conclude that it should do (although that may be an interesting thing to speculate on), but rather we should ask what the perceptual system actually does and how it does it.  This is the difference between positing an algorithm or a set of requirements and then trying to find evidence for them on the one hand, and on the other, trying to understand what actually happens.

Failure to represent veridically is perhaps causally related to behavior that is suboptimal from the standpoint of an observer with access to the veridical facts, but an organism behaves based on what it has available, not what it would be nicer to have available.  It is already granted that proximal inputs underspecify distal reality.  The point is to make the most of what one gets.