Carrie Figdor: The Fallacy of the Homuncular Fallacy

Professor Carrie Figdor (University of Iowa) speaks at “Exploring the Undermind”, a one-day research event at the University of Edinburgh, 15th July 2016.

Abstract: Homuncular functionalism is a leading philosophical framework for naturalistic psychological explanation. It shares commitment to a decompositional style of explanation with recent articulations of mechanistic explanation, but is distinguishable from the latter due to its restrictions on permissible explanantia: subpersonal parts cannot perform the same functions as the personal wholes of which they are part. This restriction is motivated by the homuncular fallacy, according to which an explanation of intelligence that posits intelligent components is no explanation at all. I argue that the homuncular fallacy is not a fallacy: there is no epistemic justification for the restrictions, and the need to “discharge” homunculi is an artifact of the homunculus metaphor.