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that there is nectar fifty yards southeast of here.


As I have just described it, the intentionality of an intentional represen-
tation need not involve concepts of any of the things referred to in its
truth conditions. Neither the beaver nor its relatives need a concept of
danger “ a way of collecting information that regards just danger, as such,
over time “ in order to produce appropriate beaver slaps or to respond
to them appropriately by diving under. Similarly, an animal™s perception
of the spatial layout of its immediate environment for purposes of mov-
ing about in it, avoiding obstacles, getting through passages, climbing up
things or over things and so forth, need not involve any concepts. Being
guided by perception of a tree so as to avoid it as you run by does not
require a concept of it, not even merely as an obstacle.You need not be
collecting information about it, nor about trees or obstacles generally, for
future use, nor need you be making any inferences concerning these ob-
jects based on previous experience. You might be doing so, of course,
but you need not. Certainly, say, a deer need not. There can be mental
representation, then, without a grasp of the identity of what is repre-
sented, hence without knowing what is represented. To suppose other-
wise, I suggest, is to relapse into a “passive picture theory of conception”
(compare Section 8.1). Knowing what one is mentally representing re-
quires the ability to track it conceptually, to mark its identity with same-
ness markers, preparatory to using the information it bears in mediate
inference or an analogue (Chapter 13). There is no reason to suppose
this sort of marking is required for all uses of perception.7
On the other hand, very simple acts of identifying are involved
in many nonconceptual tasks. In Section 10.2, I pointed out that any

7 In Millikan (1984), I called intentional representations that did their jobs without their se-
mantic values having to be identified “intentional icons,” reserving the term “representa-
tions” for those whose values did need to be identified for them to perform properly.

coordinations among sensory modalities, such as eye-hand coordina-
tion, and even the perception of depth using binocular vision, involve
simple acts of coidentifying. Similarly, the ability to learn over time
how to handle or behave in the presence of an individual, or a stuff, or
a kind, requires the ability to reidentify that substance over a variety of
encounters with it. Clearly the ability to grasp the identity of what is
represented is crucial for routine uses of a great number of representa-
tions that are simpler than what one would naturally call “thoughts” or
“judgments.” When the direction of a sound alerts me to the direction
in which a bird can be seen, I have (re)identified a location. I then
know (minimally “ see Sections 4.3, and 13.4) what direction the bird
is in. When the look of a rope combines with its feel so that these
jointly guide my activity of tying a knot, I (re)identify various parts of
the rope. I know (minimally) what parts of the rope I am seeing and
feeling. On the other hand, knowing what rope I am feeling as I coor-
dinate its sight and its feel is not knowing whether it is the rope Sally
was hunting for or the rope I used yesterday for tying the canoe. Sim-
ilarly, seeing how far off the dart board is for purposes of learning, over
a period of time, how to hit the bull™s-eye at that distance is not seeing
how many feet off it is. And I can see how far the dart board is for
throwing darts and also know how far off the eye chart is in feet with-
out knowing whether these are the same or different distances. Know-
ing what my inner representations are representing can be a relatively
simple affair, involving minimal identifications, certainly not yet in-
volving full-fledged cognition. This suggests that the distinction be-
tween perception and cognition is not a sharp one. There are gray
areas between.
Perhaps something reminiscent of Evans™ “generality constraint”
(Section 13.3) marks off the level of true cognition in the sense of
“thought” and “judgment” from more primitive and fundamental levels
of mental representation and identification, in the following way. Per-
ceptual representations that guide immediate action need to be rich
in specific kinds of information, showing the organism™s exact relations
to a number of aspects of its current environment directly as they un-
fold during action. These representations may need to have variable
structure of a kind that conforms closely to the variable structure of the
organism-environment relations that need to be instantly taken into ac-
count. And because they need to be constructed quickly and reliably,
they may be constructed by modular systems that are relatively cogni-

tively impenetrable (compare Fodor 1989).8 The first job of the more
disinterested, more general-purpose, cognitive representations, on the
other hand, is easy participation in mediate inference. This job makes
different demands, there being no way to specify in advance in what
specific kinds of inferences such a representation may need to be used.
The information captured in cognitive representations is collected for
whatever, if anything, it may happen to prove useful for. While the rep-
resentations of perception need to be cast in highly structured multidi-
mensional media suitable to the immediate purposes to which they are
dedicated, cognitive representations should be cast in a simpler uniform
medium that makes them easy to compare and combine.
Whether or not information can interact in inference depends not
on its content but on its vehicle. Putting it graphically, if the first
premise of an inference is represented with a mental Venn diagram and
the second with a mental sentence, it is hard to see what inference rules
could apply to yield a conclusion. Similarly, one might suppose, if the
information coming in through the various senses were not translated
into something like a common medium for the purposes of theoretical
and practical inference, it could not interact in a flexible way. Evans™
generality constraint requires that any subject of judgment might be
thought with any relevant predicate. The requirement here would be
twofold. First, every proposition should be represented such that it
could be combined with any other having an overlapping content, so as
to make suitable mediate inferences possible. Second, each should be
represented such that new identity markers could be inserted wherever
needed, thus facilitating expansion of one™s grasp of identities in the
cognitive domain.


Intentional representations are produced by systems designed to align
them with the world according to the semantic rules to which their in-
terpreting devices are adapted or adjusted.The intentional content of an
inner sign, what it is about, rests directly on how it is designed to be
used by the organism that harbors it. We have seen that it isn™t always
necessary that these interpreting devices should identify the semantic

8 Fodor thinks inference must be involved in this construction, however, whereas I do not.

values of an intentional representation in order to use it. Many inten-
tional representations do their jobs properly without their contents be-
ing identified. But the very first function of any discursive or, as I shall
say, cognitive representation is to be ready to participate in inferences.
Thus the intentional content of the cognitive attitudes must rest directly
on this primary function. A cognitive representation is dependent for its
very intentionality on its interpreting mechanisms™ ability to identify its
intentional objects, to know what it represents (Chapter 13). This is the
truth, I believe, in Evans™ claim that where there is no concept of an ob-
ject there can be no thinking of it. And it is the truth in the claim made
by many philosophers of this century that thinking of a thing necessar-
ily involves dispositions to make inferences concerning it, that inten-
tionality is inseparable from rationality. The intentionality of cognition
(but of cognition only) does happen to be inseparable from rationality.
Substance concepts used for cognition are designed for use in medi-
ate inference. Inference moves, paradigmatically, from one cognitive at-
titude to another.Thus the functions of these substance concepts always
require them to appear as elements in complete intentional representa-
tions having satisfaction conditions. A word, Frege said, has meaning
only in the context of a sentence. Similarly, a discursive concept has a
function only in the context of a complete cognitive attitude. That it
has an intentional content, that it means anything, is entirely dependent
on its capacity to participate in the creation of a variety of complete
cognitive attitudes, that is, a variety of intentional representations, as
these were described in Section 14.1.

Cognitive Luck:
Substance Concepts in an
Evolutionary Frame1

Steven Pinker (1994b) chides the educated layman for imagining Dar-
win™s theory to go something like Figure 1 (the vertical lines are “be-
Pinker says, “evolution did not make a ladder; it made a bush”
(p. 343), and he gives us the diagrams shown in Figures 2 and 3 instead,
showing how it went, in increasing detail, down to us. “Paleontologists
like to say that to a first approximation, all species are extinct (ninety-
nine percent is the usual estimate). The organisms we see around us are
distant cousins, not great grandparents; they are a few scattered twig-tips
of an enormous tree whose branches and trunk are no longer with us”
(pp. 343“4). The historical life bush consists mainly in dead ends.
Moreover, when we look more closely at the life bush, examining in
detail the various lineages that form the littlest twigs (the species), we
see the same pattern over again. The vast majority of individual animals
and plants forming these various lineages didn™t make it. The twigs are
largely made of fuzz “ of myriad little lives that broke off before repro-
duction. An indication of a species™ mortality rate is how many more
offspring than one per parent are conceived on average. Consider, then,
spiders, fish, and rabbits. And recall that Octavius was a common Ro-
man name. To a first approximation, all individual animals die before
Species went extinct, typically, because of changing environments, in-
cluding the comings and goings of other living species. The study of

1 This chapter is a revised version of “Cognitive Luck: Externalism in an Evolutionary
Frame” from Mindscapes: Philosophy, Science, and the Mind, Martin Carrier and Peter K.
Machamer, Eds., © 1997. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Figure 1 (Pinker 1994b, p. 343, with permission)

Figure 2 (Pinker 1994b, p. 344, with permission)

these changes and resulting extinctions is, of course, a purely historical
study, a study of the disposition of historical bits of matter, positioned at
particular points in space and time, running afoul of other historical bits
of matter, positioned in accidental juxtaposition. The places where the
streamlets of life managed to flow on, through little chinks in the bar-

Figure 3 (Pinker 1994b, p. 345, with permission)

riers thrown up by geological history and other competing life forms,
were also accidental in the very strongest sense. There are no empirical
laws of evolution. There are only applicable and interesting mathemati-
cal models of certain aspects of evolution, ways of calculating the nec-
essary outcomes of certain assumptions, as when demonstrating that
WERE Johnny to continue to earn 5 percent a year on his $10,000 in-
vestment for fifteen years, and WERE he not to spend any of it, he
WOULD accumulate $20,000. Models of this kind are not empirical
laws. The results of the evolutionary process we still have with us today
are the outcome of sheer cosmic luck, no more and no less.
There are, however, two great and simple principles that, conjoined,
account for the fact, despite vastly changing historical circumstances,
that there still exists life, indeed, vastly abundant life. Call these princi-
ples “multiplication” and “division.” “Multiplication” says that the more
progeny each member of a group bears, the more chance there is that
some of these progeny will be lucky enough to happen upon acciden-
tal chinks in the environmental barriers through which they may slip to
the next generation. If enough baby sea turtles are born, a few will

accidentally avoid being eaten on the journey from their birth nests to
the sea. “Division” says that if enough variety of life is produced, then
there is a good chance that some of the environments that chance by will
be suited to someone or other. “Division” is effected both by the vast
number of species and by polymorphism within species. The history
of life is like a lottery that was bound to be won by some, because so
many bought tickets and there were so many different kinds of drawings.
Turning to life within a single species, it is easy wrongly to suppose
that there is another principle that keeps lineages going. Natural selec-
tion, we suppose, has acted to preserve only the “fittest” characteristics
for any given species, so that these are had pretty much by all members
of the species. The result, we suppose, is that each normal little animal
is nearly ideally designed for its own particular niche. Then why do so
many species need to have so many babies? Why the thick long fuzz on
all the lineage lines if all the animals are so “fit”? The reason is that, like
everything else having to do with the propagation of life, fitness is a
matter of statistics. Higher fitness lends only a higher probability of sur-
vival and reproduction. A die loaded with sixes on two sides doesn™t
help if you throw one of the other four sides, and that is what you are
most likely to do.
The tossing, here, is done by the enormous variety among individual
environments.The kitten with an immune system resistant to feline dis-
temper is run over by a car. The kitten who exhibits sensible behavior
on the roadway gets exposed to distemper. The kitten with both
strengths gets into rat poison at a neighbor™s.There is no way to be “fit”
for all contingencies. Where environmental barriers are diverse and
shifting, introducing numerous and diverse kittens raises the chances
that a few will manage to pass through, but it doesn™t raise the chance
for each kitten. Assuming probabilities pertinent to relevant environ-
mental factors remain constant over time, one could confidently predict
that a species will continue to survive. But to predict how the individ-
ual lineages within the species will go so as to make this happen would
require a detailed knowledge of every cranny in the environment at
every time. Predicting that someone will win is easy enough, predicting
who will win is impossible. For the system that propagates a lineage is
not contained in the individual bodies of the organisms making up the
lineage. It rests also upon statistically reliable yet accidental episodes of
environmental cooperation. Individual lineages do not advance lawfully.
Instead of laws for lineage advance, there are mechanisms. Given a
propitious environment by the luck of the draw, there are various

mechanisms by which selected individual organisms composing a par-
ticular species have historically projected themselves forward in time.
The working of these mechanisms is explained, not by laws of the par-
ticular species, but by laws formulated in more basic sciences. Physical
structures with which the organism is equipped, coupled with just the
right propitious supporting physical structures in the environment, proj-
ect the lineage in accordance with physical laws. There is, for example,
a mechanism by which newly hatched green turtles reach the sea when
they do. But of course there is no law that they reach the sea “ not even
a ceteris paribus law, any more than there is a ceteris paribus law that little
boys grow up to be president. Similarly, there is a mechanism whereby
sand is sometimes prevented from entering our eyes (the eye-blink re-
flex) but there is no law that sand is kept out of our eyes.
Suppose now that we magnify the little lines that are individual or-
ganisms moving moment by moment through their individual life cy-
cles. Over here under the lens is a barnacle. It waves its little fan foot
through the water once, twice, ten times, a hundred and ten times, and
the hundred and eleventh time it picks up a microscopic lunch. Over
here is Tabby, after a squirrel. Whoops, missed! Now she is after a bird.
Missed again! An hour of stalking with no profit. Never mind, here she
comes now to cry for her dinner, where environmental circumstances are
more likely, for her, to bear fruit. Over there, now, is Grackling the goose,
doing a mating dance for his chosen. She spurns him today, but perhaps
she will not tomorrow. Or he will find another instead, either this sea-
son or next. Over here is Rover, kicking up sand as he runs. Despite his
healthy eye-blink reflex, one sand grain goes into his eye.The eye waters
profusely, but does not wash out the sand. Rover rubs the eye with his
paw and eventually manages to clear it. Similarly, looking to less visible
behaviors, there are membranes to keep harmful bacteria from entering
Rover™s body. And there is also a whole series of mechanisms designed to
destroy those bacteria that still manage to get through. Often one or an-
other of these various filters works but it can also happen that none do.
In this manner, at every point where an organism interacts with its
environment as needed to spin out its lifeline, we find innumerable fail-
ures. Counterbalancing these, we again find Multiplication and Divi-
sion. We find numerous trials, many of which fail for each success. We
find numerous redundant mechanisms, designed to perform the same
basic tasks.The result is that the lifeline occasionally proceeds, small step
by small step, right through to the next generation. But there are no
laws that govern this process. There are only numerous and diverse

mechanisms operating in a stochastic environment hoping for a passible
drawing.There are lots of fuzzies everywhere along each individual life-
line, lots and lots of deadend trials.
Up to now without comment I have been treating biological species
not as classes but as big, scattered, historical entities, enduring for longer
or shorter periods through time. What species an individual organism
belongs to depends not on its timeless properties but on its historical
relations to other individuals. Dogs must be born of other dogs, not just
be like other dogs; sibling species count as two or more for the same
reason that identical twins count as two, not one. Earlier (Section 2.3) I
mentioned that both Ghiselin and Hull have argued that species are ac-
tually individuals, a position that appears reasonable, certainly for the case
of familiar sexually reproducing animals. Hull concluded that because
species are really historical individuals, “their names function in no sci-
entific laws” (1978), for example, “[t]here is no such thing as human na-
ture.” Crossing this current, I claimed, however, that the members of the
various biological species, as well as members of various other biologi-
cal types, form real substance kinds, over which many well founded
generalizations, though not strict laws, can be run entirely legitimately.
Inductions from one member of a species to the next often hold up for
very good reason. Were this not so, there could be no science of biol-
ogy. Nor could there be any science of psychology. But we must be
careful not to analogize the subject matter of the life sciences and other
historical sciences too closely to that of the eternal sciences.
Biological species form historical substance kinds in part because of
historical connections among their members. Roughly, the members
have been copied from one another, and natural selection, operating on
a variety of levels has enforced a high degree of copying fidelity. Adult
members of a species are alike also in part because they have developed
in what is relevantly the same historical environment. And they con-
tinue to be alike “ indeed, may continue to survive “ only insofar as
they continue to inhabit what is, in relevant respects, the same environ-
ment. They live on land, or in the sea, or alone, or in groups, or in lan-
guage communities, and so forth.
Now it is always possible to study the properties that are common to
most individuals of a given species at a given stage of life, apart from
their normal environment. You can study these properties just as you
might study the properties of any chunk of inorganic matter lying on
the lab table. In this case, any dispositions that characterize the kind, or
that would characterize the kind in any physically possible environment,

are as legitimate to study as any other. These dispositions may show up,
for example, when the species members are in the wild, or in cages, or
in spaceships, or in laboratory apparatuses, or under the microscope, or
after injection with chemicals, or under 5 atmospheres pressure, or sub-
jected to 5,000 volts current. For what these objects are disposed to be
like and to do in one environment is as much a part of their objective
nature as in any other. Their nature as such objects makes no reference
to an environment.The environment will have been instrumental in the
past of these objects, molding them into a roughly uniform substance
kind, but truths can be discovered about their relations to many possible
environments, not just their historical environment.
Clearly there is another way to study a species scientifically, however.
It can be studied with an eye to the properties that allowed it to survive
through time as a Hullian historical individual. This sort of study is in-
trinsically ecological, deeply interested in the environment. It focuses on
the contrast between the individual lifelines, and individual episodes
within these lives, that have pushed on in contrast to those that have
failed. It studies the various mechanisms by which the life bush has thrust
forth new shoots in those episodes in which the environment happened
to be cooperative. It studies the mechanisms that helped to bias the
species™ chances in favor of winning the vast lottery of life. It is interested
in the environment, not just as some sort of average container for mem-
bers of a species, but in just those respects that have historically been pro-
pitious for that particular kind of organism engaging in these or those
particular productive activities. This sort of study is a study of organisms
as life forms, rather than merely as collections of like physical objects.
Now no one will deny, of course, that the study of normal human
psychology should be a study of the human mind as it operates, in
some sense, “in its normal environment.” Just as we study fish in the
water, pigs on land, and birds in the air, we study human cognizers sur-
rounded by air containing oxygen, at about one atmosphere pressure,
with a supporting surface underneath, within a certain range of tem-
peratures, whose heads are not in strong electric fields, or being banged

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