Emotional behaviour and the scope of belief-desire explanation

In D. Evans & Pierre Cruse (eds.), Emotion, Evolution, and Rationality. Oxford University Press. pp. 51--68 (2004)
In our everyday psychologising, emotions figure large. When we are trying to explain and predict what a person says and does, that person’s emotions are very much among the objects of our thoughts. Despite this, emotions do not figure large in our philosophical reconstruction of everyday psychological practice—in philosophical accounts of the rational production and control of behaviour. Barry Smith has noted this point: We frequently mention people’s emotional sates when assessing how they behave, when trying to understand why they say and do the things they say and do, and when deciding how to deal with them. A large part of our awareness of others and our ability to make sense of them depends on their emotional make-up and our appreciation of how this affects their thoughts and actions. All of this is missing from the standard accounts of folk psychology, and the key question is why? (2002, 111-2). Before beginning to answer to Smith’s question, I want to say more to characterise the approach in philosophical psychology which he is questioning. There are many detailed philosophical accounts of the rational production and control of behaviour. My aim here isn’t to examine these details, but to characterise a certain species of philosophical psychology—one which holds that one can explain the rational production and control of behaviour in terms of a narrow set of mental state types: belief, desire (and perhaps a few others: perception or intention). Hence my label for this species: ‘Humean psychology’. The orthodox Humean view is that rational agency can be explained adequately by appeal to the agent’s beliefs and desires. So, to borrow an example from Davidson (1978), we can explain a person’s adding salt to the stew by citing her desire that the will stew taste better and her belief that if..
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