Setting Asymmetric Dependence Straight

38 Pages Posted: 26 Jan 2006

See all articles by Mark Greenberg

Mark Greenberg

UCLA School of Law and Department of Philosophy

Date Written: January, 2006


Fodor's asymmetric-dependence theory of content is probably the best known and most developed causal or informational theory of mental content. Many writers have attempted to provide counterexamples to Fodor's theory. In this paper, I offer a more fundamental critique. I begin by attacking Fodor's view of the dialectical situation. Fodor's theory is cast in terms of laws covering the occurrence of an individual thinker's mental symbols. I show that, contrary to Fodor's view, we cannot restrict consideration to hypothetical cases in which his conditions for content are satisfied, but must consider whether the relevant laws exhibit the specified asymmetric-dependence relations in actual cases.

My central argument is that the laws that the theory requires do not in fact exhibit the appropriate asymmetric-dependence relations. I show that, in general, part of the mechanism for the crucial, supposedly content-determining law for a mental symbol is not shared by the mechanisms for the other laws covering the occurrence of the same mental symbol. As a result, the former law can be eliminated (by eliminating the non-overlapping part of the mechanism) without eliminating the latter laws. The latter laws do not asymmetrically depend on the former law.

Keywords: mental content, mind, theory of content, mentalese, language of thought, semantics, meta-semantics, informational semantics, information, covariation, causal semantics, Fodor, asymmetric dependence, meaning, reference, nomic dependence, symbol

Suggested Citation

Greenberg, Mark, Setting Asymmetric Dependence Straight (January, 2006). UCLA School of Law Research Paper No. 06-03. Available at SSRN: or

Mark Greenberg (Contact Author)

UCLA School of Law and Department of Philosophy ( email )

385 Charles E. Young Dr. East
Room 1242
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476
United States
(310) 206-1337 (Phone)
(310) 825-6023 (Fax)

Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics