This article reconsiders the relationship between interpretivism about belief and normative standards. Interpretivists have traditionally taken beliefs to be fixed in relation to norms of interpretation. However, recent work by philosophers and psychologists reveals that human belief attribution practices are governed by a rich diversity of normative standards. Interpretivists thus face a dilemma: either give up on the idea that belief is constitutively normative or countenance a context-sensitive disjunction of norms that constitute belief. Either way, interpretivists should embrace the intersubjective (...) indeterminacy of belief. (shrink)
In this article, I explore how researchers’ metaphysical commitments can be conducive—or unconducive—to progress in animal cognition research. The methodological dictum known as Morgan’s Canon exhorts comparative psychologists to countenance the least mentalistic fair interpretation of animal actions. This exhortation has frequently been misread as a blanket condemnation of mentalistic interpretations of animal behaviors that could be interpreted behavioristically. But Morgan meant to demand only that researchers refrain from accepting default interpretations of (apparent) actions until other fair interpretations have been (...) duly considered. The Canon backfired largely because of Morgan’s background metaphysical commitment to a univocal, hierarchical, and anthropocentric account of cognitive architecture. I make the case that, going forward, comparative psychologists would do well to pair judicious use of Morgan’s Canon with an openness to the existence of non-humanlike animal minds comprising phenomena belonging to distinct cognitive and folk psychological ontologies. And I argue that this case gives us pragmatic reason to reconcile deep—e.g., psychofunctionalist—and superficial—e.g., dispositionalist—approaches to the metaphysics of belief. (shrink)
I have proposed wedding the theories of belief known as dispositionalism and interpretivism. Krzysztof Poslajko objects that dispositionalism does just fine on its own and, moreover, is better off without interpretivism’s metaphysical baggage. I argue that Poslajko is wrong: in order to secure a principled criterion for individuating beliefs, dispositionalism must either collapse into psychofunctionalism (or some other non-superficial theory) or accept interpretivism’s hand in marriage.
In a recent article in this journal, Krzysztof Poslajko reconstructs—and endorses as probative—a dilemma for interpretivism first posed by Alex Byrne. On the first horn of the dilemma, the interpretivist takes attitudes to emerge in relation to an ideal interpreter (and thus loses any connection with actual folk psychological practices). On the second horn, the interpretivist takes attitudes to emerge in relation to individuals’ judgements (and thus denies the possibility of error). I show that this is a false dilemma. By (...) taking a model-theoretic approach to folk psychology, and marrying interpretivism with dispositionalism, interpretivists can viably reject the notion of an ideal (or canonical) interpreter—and relativize attitudes to actual lay interpreters—without taking on board the unacceptable epistemological consequences of allowing that attitudes are judgement-dependent. (shrink)
Double dissociations between perceivable colors and physical properties of colored objects have led many philosophers to endorse relationalist accounts of color. I argue that there are analogous double dissociations between attitudes of belief—the beliefs that people attribute to each other in everyday life—and intrinsic cognitive states of belief—the beliefs that some cognitive scientists posit as cogs in cognitive systems—pitched at every level of psychological explanation. These dissociations provide good reason to refrain from conflating attitudes of belief with intrinsic cognitive states (...) of belief. I suggest that interpretivism provides an attractive account of the former. Like colors, attitudes of belief evolved to be ecological signifiers, not cogs in cognitive systems. (shrink)
In Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee reveals that American man of integrity Atticus Finch harbors deep-seated racist beliefs. Bob Ewell, Finch's nemesis in To Kill a Mockingbird, harbors the same beliefs. But the two men live out their shared racist beliefs in dramatically different fashions. This article argues that extant dispositionalist accounts of belief lack the tools to accommodate Finch and Ewell's divergent styles of believing. It then draws on literary and philosophical character studies to construct the required tools.
Many psychologists studying lay belief attribution and behavior explanation cite Donald Davidson in support of their assumption that people construe beliefs as inner causes. But Davidson’s influential argument is unsound; there are no objective grounds for the intuition that the folk construe beliefs as inner causes that produce behavior. Indeed, recent experimental work by Ian Apperly, Bertram Malle, Henry Wellman, and Tania Lombrozo provides an empirical framework that accords well with Gilbert Ryle’s alternative thesis that the folk construe beliefs as (...) patterns of living that contextualize behavior. (shrink)
A pluralistic approach to folk psychology must countenance the evaluative, regulatory, predictive, and explanatory roles played by attributions of intelligence in social practices across cultures. Building off of the work of the psychologist Robert Sternberg and the philosophers Gilbert Ryle and Daniel Dennett, I argue that a relativistic interpretivism best accounts for the many varieties of intelligence that emerge from folk discourse. To be intelligent is to be comparatively good at solving intellectual problems that an interpreter deems worth solving.
Psychometric g—a statistical factor capturing intercorrelations between scores on different IQ tests—is of theoretical interest despite being a low-fidelity model of both folk psychological intelligence and its cognitive/neural underpinnings. Psychometric g idealizes away from those aspects of cognitive/neural mechanisms that are not explanatory of the relevant variety of folk psychological intelligence, and it idealizes away from those varieties of folk psychological intelligence that are not generated by the relevant cognitive/neural substrate. In this manner, g constitutes a high-fidelity bridge model of (...) the relationship between its two targets and, thereby, helps demystify the relationship between folk and scientific psychology. (shrink)
Teresa believes in God. Maggie’s wife believes that the Earth is flat, and also that Maggie should be home from work by now. Anouk—a cat—believes it is dinner time. This dissertation is about what believing is: it concerns what, exactly, ordinary people are attributing to Teresa, Maggie’s wife, and Anouk when affirming that they are believers. Part I distinguishes the attitudes of belief that people attribute to each other (and other animals) in ordinary life from the cognitive states of belief (...) theoretically posited by (some) cognitive scientists. Part II defends the view that to have an attitude of belief is to live—to be disposed to act, react, think, and feel—in a pattern that an actual belief attributor identifies with taking the world to be some way. Drawing on scientific, scholarly, and literary sources of evidence, How Beliefs are like Colors provides a framework for research on belief across the humanities and sciences of the mind. (shrink)
This article offers an interpretation of Descartes’s method of doubt. It wields an examination of Descartes’s pedagogy—as exemplified by The Search for Truth as well as the Meditations—to make the case for the sincerity (as opposed to artificiality) of the doubts engendered by the First Meditation. Descartes was vigilant about balancing the need to use his method of doubt to achieve absolute certainty with the need to compensate for the various foibles of his scholastic and unschooled readers. Nevertheless, Descartes endeavored (...) to instill willful, context-independent, universal doubt across his readership. If all goes well, readers of the Meditations are like method actors; the Meditator is the character they are meant to bring to life, via the method of meditating on reasons for doubt. The article concludes with the suggestion that Descartes was the same kind of skeptic as the early Academic skeptics Arcesilaus and Carneades. (shrink)
Descartes held the following view of declarative memory: to remember is to reconstruct an idea that you intellectually recognize as a reconstruction. Descartes countenanced two overarching varieties of declarative memory. To have an intellectual memory is to intellectually reconstruct a universal idea that you recognize as a reconstruction, and to have a sensory memory is to neurophysiologically reconstruct a particular idea that you recognize as a reconstruction. Sensory remembering is thus a capacity of neither ghosts nor machines, but only of (...) human beings qua mind-body unions. This interpretation unifies Descartes’s various remarks (and conspicuous silences) about remembering, from the 1628 Rules for the Direction of the Mind through the suppressed-in-1633 Treatise of Man to the 1649 Passions of the Soul. It also rebuts a prevailing thesis in the current secondary literature—that Cartesian critters can remember—while incorporating the textual evidence for that thesis—Descartes’s detailed descriptions of the corporeal mechanisms that construct sensory memories. (shrink)