A theory of traits

Philosophical Psychology 6 (1):67 – 79 (1993)
Abstract
The aim of the present paper is to find a satisfactory way of understanding what traits are. As a starting point, two recent accounts of the nature of traits, the act frequency approach and the intention frequency approach, are presented and discussed. The act frequency approach is criticized for taking all traits to be behavioral dispositions, and for not offering any explanation of behavior. The intention frequency approach is criticized for being equally one-sided in regarding all traits as mental frequency dispositions. It is claimed that some traits are purely behavioral, that some are behavioral and mental, and that some are purely mental. Finally, it is argued that mental phenomena like beliefs and desires, the phenomena that make up reasons for and explain actions, are not frequency dispositions. They are dispositional properties of another kind, namely abilities, capacities or powers.
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