False consciousness of intentional psychology

Philosophical Psychology 15 (3):271-295 (2002)
According to explanatory individualism, every action must be explained in terms of an agent's desire. According to explanatory nonindividualism, we sometimes act on our desires, but it is also possible for us to act on others' desires without acting on desires of our own. While explanatory nonindividualism has guided the thinking of many social scientists, it is considered to be incoherent by most philosophers of mind who insist that actions must be explained ultimately in terms of some desire of the agent. In the first part of the paper, I show that some powerful arguments designed to demonstrate the incoherence of explanatory nonindividualism fail. In the second part of the paper, I offer a nonindividualist explanation of the apparent obviousness of belief-desire psychology. I argue that there are two levels of the intelligibility of our actions. On the more fundamental (explanatory) level, the question "Why did the agent do something?" admits a variety of folk-psychological categories. But there is another (formation-of-self) level, at which the same question admits only of answers that ultimately appeal only to the agent's own desires. Explanatory individualism results from the confusion of the two levels
Keywords Consciousness  Individualism  Intentionality  Metaphysics  Mind  Psychology
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