Getting Rid of the Homunculus: A Direct Realist Approach

  • Terence McMullen


One of the problems arising in the representationist approach to cognition is that of the homunculus. How can cognition occur unless there is an inner “little man” who knows both what the representations are and what they represent? Dennett’s “intentional stance” account proposes a way out. By analogy with computer processes (e.g. we speak of “chess-playing” computers when, in fact, they know literally nothing about chess or anything else), it can be seen that human cognition can be analysed down to basic processing assemblies which are cognitively attenuated (“stupid”, “pseudo-cognitive”). Accordingly there is no need for representations, and so there is no homunculus problem. Dennett’s solution is unworkable: the notion of pseudo-or proto-cognition is unsustainable. Must the homunculus be reinstated? Not at all: the direct realist account of cognition as an irreducible relation provides a radical but coherent alternative.


Folk Psychology Intentional Stance British Broadcasting Corporation Representationist Approach Artificial Intelligence Programmer 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Terence McMullen
    • 1
  1. 1.University of SydneyAustralia

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