Propositional attitudes and psychological explanation

Mind and Language 1 (2):133-57 (1986)
Propositional attitudes, states like believing, desiring, intending, etc., have played a central role in the articulation of many of our major theories, both in philosophy and the social sciences. Until relatively recently, psychology was a prominent entry on the list of social sciences in which propositional attitudes occupied center stage. In this century, though, behaviorists began to make a self-conscious effort to expunge "mentalistic" notions from their theorizing. Behaviorism has failed. Psychology therefore is again experiencing "formative years," and two themes have caught the interest of philosophers. The first is that psychological theories evidently must exploit a vast array of relations obtaining among internal states. The second is that the use of mentalistic idioms seems to be explicit again in much of current theorizing. These two observations have led philosophers to wonder about the probable as well as the proper role of propositional attitudes in future psychological theories. Some philosophers wonder, in particular, about the role of the contents of propositional attitudes in the forthcoming theories. Their strategy is in part to discern what sorts of theory psychologists now will want to construct, and then discern what role propositional attitude contents might play in theories of those sorts. I consider here two sorts of theory, what I call minimal functional theories and what is known as propositional attitude psychology. ;I outline these two kinds of theory, and show how each defines a role for contents. Contents are ultimately eliminable in minimal functional theories. Although they play an apparently ineliminable role in propositional attitude psychology, they do so at an apparent cost. Propositional attitude psychology does not seem to accommodate a certain methodological principle, a principle of individualism in psychology, which is endorsed even by some of the philosophers most enamored of the approach. Such philosophers have two options: they can attempt to show that the conflict between the approach and the principle is not genuine, or they can reject the principle. I argue that the conflict is real, and recommend a qualified rejections of the principle
Keywords Explanation  Metaphysics  Propositional Attitudes  Psychology
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DOI 10.1111/j.1468-0017.1986.tb00323.x
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References found in this work BETA
The Language of Thought.Jerry A. Fodor - 1975 - Harvard University Press.
Mind, Language, and Reality.Hilary Putnam - 1975 - Cambridge University Press.
Individualism and Psychology.Tyler Burge - 1986 - Philosophical Review 95 (January):3-45.

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