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Possible Worlds in Perspective: A Hyperintensional Approach to Content

Josh Armstrong

Thursday, September 22, 2011, 12:00pm - 07:00pm

Rutgers University, Department of Philosophy

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Psychological states, like believing and desiring, are characteristic bearers of content. Content plays a central role in much of contemporary philosophy of mind and language, as well as various branches of cognitive science. What has been called the possible worlds account has been among the most prominent frameworks for understanding the nature of content. While the possible worlds account has proven to be remarkably fruitful in areas such as semantics and decision theory, it suffers from well-known problems related to its treatment of various hyperintensional phenomena (e.g. the fact that an agent can believe that everything is self-identical without believing that Muhammad Ali is Cassius Clay). In this talk I offer a revision to the classic possible worlds framework.  I argue that contents should be understood in terms of alternatives: possible worlds together with a perspective on them. I show how to model a perspective in terms of a system of symbolic mental representations.  The account I provide is one that retains many of the virtues of the possible worlds account, while providing an appropriately hyperintensional account of content.

Josh Armstrong