Aliefs Don't Exist, Though Some of their Relatives Do [Book Review]

Analysis 72 (4):788-798 (2012)
Much of Tamar Gendler’s dense and engaging book argues for the emotional, cognitive and motivational power of imagination, which is presented as a central feature of human mental architecture. But in the final chapters Gendler argues that some of us have over-exploited this resource, too easily assuming that, if belief cannot explain a class of human behaviours, imagination will do the job. She gives a number of examples of problematic behaviours (‘Gendler cases’, as we shall say), which in her view can be explained only by appeal to a previously unrecognized mental state: alief, different from belief and from imagination, and from any other mental kinds we are familiar with. We argue that it’s a mistake to explain Gendler cases in terms of a single mental state of the kind alief is supposed to be; we should appeal instead to a variety of representational states, including familiar ones such as belief, desire, imagination and perception. While a few of these cases do plausibly require us to acknowledge representations at levels other than the personal one, none require us to acknowledge the existence of aliefs, at least as those states are officially characterized by Gendler. We then turn to one of Gendler’s more general arguments for the new category of alief: the argument from hyperopacity. We reject that argument. But all this is not simply die-hard conservativism: we conclude by elaborating the idea (somewhat in the spirit of Gendler’s proposal) that various representational states not acknowledged by folk-psychology have a role to play in explaining behaviour, emotion and cognition.
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DOI 10.1093/analys/ans088
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