On Content Uniformity for Beliefs and Desires

Review of Philosophy and Psychology 12 (2):279-309 (2020)
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Abstract

The view that dominates the literature on intentional attitudes holds that beliefs and desires both have propositional content. A commitment to what I call “content uniformity” underlies this view. According to content uniformity, beliefs and desires are but different psychological modes having a uniform kind of content. Prima facie, the modes don’t place any constraint on the kinds of content the attitude can have. I challenge this consensus by pointing out an asymmetry between belief contents and desire contents which shows content uniformity to be mistaken. I do this by revisiting the arguments of Richard (Philosophical Studies, 39(1): 1–13, 1981), and show that arguments which purport to show the temporal specificity of belief contents yield the opposite results for desire contents. I defend this preliminary conclusion from various strategies to neutralize the asymmetry claim. My defense provides occasions to respond to objections by Brogaard (2012) and Recanati (2007) to the Richard argument, and to get clearer on the role of temporal adjuncts in desire ascriptions. Finally, I consider whether the construal of attitude content as centered propositions (as in Lewis Philosophical Review, 88(4): 513–543, 1979) can be invoked to vindicate content uniformity. My conclusion is that while the framework itself doesn’t vindicate content uniformity, it could, but only if it availed itself of a further, substantive thesis about desire, which itself is in need of defense.

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Author's Profile

Daniel Skibra
Universität Konstanz

References found in this work

The Language of Thought.Jerry A. Fodor - 1975 - Harvard University Press.
Intentionality: An Essay in the Philosophy of Mind.John R. Searle - 1983 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Intentionality: An Essay in the Philosophy of Mind.John R. Searle - 1983 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Studies in the way of words.Herbert Paul Grice - 1989 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

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