Mild realism, causation, and folk psychology

Philosophical Psychology 8 (2):167-87 (1996)
Daniel Dennett (1991) has advanced a mild realism in which beliefs are described as patterns “discernible in agents' (observable) behavior” (p. 30). I clarify the conflict between this otherwise attractive theory and the strong realist view that beliefs are internal states that cause actions. Support for strong realism is sometimes derived from the assumption that the everyday psychology of the folk is committed to it. My main thesis here is that we have sufficient reason neither for strong realism nor for the supporting assumption about the commitments of folk psychology. Several generally implicit arguments in support of the latter assumption are considered. Explicit arguments for it by Ramsey et al. (1990) and Wellman (1990) are examined and judged unsuccessful. An explicit argument for strong realism by Cummins (in conversation) is also found inadequate. Consideration of this latter argument helps to explain why we cannot be satisfied with Dennett's own very brief discussion of causation by beliefs
Keywords Causation  Folk Psychology  Realism  Science  Dennett, D
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