What we talk about when we talk about mental states

In Tamas Demeter, T. Parent & Adam Toon (eds.), Mental Fictionalism: Philosophical Explorations. Routledge. pp. 147-159 (2022)
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Fictionalists propose that some apparently fact-stating discourses do not aim to convey factual information about the world, but rather allow us to engage in a fiction or pretense without incurring ontological commitments. Some philosophers have suggested that using mathematical, modal, or moral discourse, for example, need not commit us to the existence of mathematical objects, possible worlds, or moral facts. The mental fictionalist applies this reasoning to our mental discourse, suggesting that we can use ‘belief’ and ‘desire’ talk without committing to the existence of beliefs and desires as mental entities. Most arguments for mental fictionalism are based on two key suppositions: first, that there are ontological concerns about mental entities; and second, that these ontological concerns justify a fictionalist interpretation of mental discourse. This paper challenges both suppositions and argues that the standard arguments for mental fictionalism are substantially weaker than arguments for other forms of fictionalism in the philosophical literature.



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Zoe Drayson
University of California, Davis