Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Andrea Scarantino - Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. George Graham

Third Advisor

Dr. Eddy Nahmias


In several works, Ruth Millikan (1998a, 2000, 2006) has developed a ‘teleosemantic’ theory of concepts. Millikan’s theory has three explicit desiderata for concepts: wide scope, non-descriptionist content, and naturalism. I contend that Millikan’s theory cannot fulfill all of these desiderata simultaneously. Theoretical concepts, such as those of chemistry and physics, fall under Millikan’s intended scope, but I will argue that her theory cannot account for these concepts in a way that is compatible with both non-descriptionism and naturalism. In these cases, Millikan’s view is subject to the traditional ‘indeterminacy problem’ for teleosemantic theories. This leaves the content of theoretical concepts indeterminate between a descriptionist and non-descriptionist content. Furthermore, this problem cannot be overcome without giving up the naturalism desideratum. I suggest that the scope of Millikan’s theory should be limited. At best, the theory will be able to attribute naturalistic, non-descriptionist content to a smaller range of concepts.

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