(1) Content properties are nonrelational, that is, having a content property does not entail the existence of any contingent object not identical with the thinker or a part of the thinker.2 (2) We have noninferential knowledge of our conscious thoughts, that is, for any of our..
This paper defends the autonomy thesis, which holds that one can intend to do something even though one believes it to be impossible, against attacks by Fred Adams. Adams denies the autonomy thesis on the grounds that it cannot, but must, explain what makes a particular trying, a trying for the aim it has in view. If the autonomy thesis were true, it seems that I could try to fly across the Atlantic ocean merely by typing out this abstract, a (...) palpable absurdity. If we deny the autonomy thesis, we have an easy explanation: one simply cannot try to do something which one believes to be impossible. In response, I argue, first, by means of examples, that one clearly can try and intend to do what one believes to be impossible; and then l show how we can provide an answer to Adams’s challenge even so. (shrink)
How are we able to perceive the world veridically? If we ask this question as a part of the scientific investigation of perception, then we are not asking for a transcendental guarantee that our perceptions are by and large veridical; we presuppose that they are. Unless we assumed that we perceived the world for the most part veridically, we would not be in a position to investigate our perceptual abilities empirically. We are interested, then, not in how it is possible (...) in general for us to perceive the world veridically, but instead in what the relation is between our environment and its properties, of which we have knowledge, on the one hand, and our perceptual mechanisms, on the other, that results in very many, even most of our perceptions being veridical in everyday life. (shrink)
It is natural to think that our ordinary practices in giving explanations for our actions, for what we do, commit us to claiming that content properties are causally relevant to physical events such as the movements of our limbs and bodies, and events which these in turn cause. If you want to know why my body ambulates across the street, or why my arm went up before I set out, we suppose I have given you an answer when I say (...) that I wanted to greet a friend on the other side of the street, and thought that my arm's going up would be interpreted by him as a signal to stop for a moment. This widely held view might be disputed, but I shall not argue for it in this paper. I want to start with the view that our beliefs and desires and other propositional attitudes are causally relevant, in virtue of their modes and particular contents, to our movements, in order to investigate the consequences for analyses of thought content. For this purpose, I argue, in sec. II, for three necessary conditions on causal relevance: (a) a nomic sufficiency condition, (b) a logical independence condition, and (c) a screening-off condition. In sec. III, I apply these conditions to relational and functional theories of thought content, arguing that these theories cannot accommodate the causal relevance of content properties to our behaviour. I argue further that, on two plausible assumptions, one about the dependence of the mental on the physical, and the other about the availability in principle of causal explanations of our movements in terms of our non-relational physical properties, content properties can be causally relevant only if they are nomically type-correlated, relative to certain circumstances, with non-relational physical properties of our bodies. In sec. IV, I respond to a number of objections that might be advanced against this conclusion. (shrink)
The paper rejects the claim that phenomena such as change and inattentional blindness show that perceptual representations are inaccurate or that a radical overhaul of our traditional picture of perception is required. The paper rejects in particular the sensorimotor theory of perception, which denies that there are any perceptual representations. It further argues that the degree of resolution of perceptual experience relevant to assessing its accuracy is determined by our use of it in standard conditions, and that the integration of (...) behavior with perceptual representation shows that it is by and large as accurate as its degree of resolution requires. (shrink)
I argue that the logical difference between classical and quantum mechanics that Stapp (1995) claims shows quantum mechanics is more amenable to an account of consciousness than is classical mechanics is irrelevant to the problem.
Our concern in this paper is with the question of how irrational an intentional agent can be, and, in particular, with an argument Stephen Stich has given for the claim that there are only very minimal a priori requirements on the rationality of intentional agents. The argument appears in chapter 2 of The Fragmentation of Reason.1 Stich is concerned there with the prospects for the ‘reform-minded epistemologist’. If there are a priori limits on how irrational we can be, there are (...) limits to how much reform we could expect to achieve. With this in mind, Stich sets out to determine what a priori limits there are on irrationality by examining `a cluster of influential arguments aimed at showing that there are conceptual constraints on how badly a person can reason’ (p. 30). Stich aims to remove the threat of a priori limits on the project of reforming our cognitive practices by showing, first, that these influential arguments are bad arguments, and, second, that at best there are only minimal constraints on how irrational we can be.2 We aim to show three things. The first is that Stich’s own arguments against strong a priori limits on how badly a person can reason are unsuccessful, because Stich fails to take into account that the concept of rationality is an epistemic, not just a logical concept, and because he fails to take into account the connection between having a concept and being able to recognize conceptually simple inferences involving the concept. The second is that the position Stich argues for, on the basis of Richard Grandy’s principle of humanity, turns out not to be distinct from the one he rejects. The third is that, in any case, the position that Stich rejects in order to preserve some scope for the project of improving our reasoning is not only no danger to that project but must be presupposed by it. (shrink)
causal relevance, a three-place relation between event types, and circumstances, and argue for a logical independence condition on properties standing in the causal relevance relation relative to circumstances. In section 3, I apply these results to show that functionally defined states are not causally relevant to the output or state transitions in terms of which they are defined. In section 4, I extend this result to what that output in turn causes and to intervening mechanisms. In section 5, I examine (...) the implications of this result for functional theories of mental states. In section 6, I distinguish between functional descriptions of properties and functional definitions of properties, and argue the former present no obstacle to mental states being causally relevant to behavior, but that this is so because they do not treat mental states as functional states. In section 7, I examine the nature of explanations that appeal to functional states or properties. section 8 identifies some difficulties that arise in thinking about specifically conscious mental states as functional states. section 9 is a brief conclusion. (shrink)
_The Significance of Consciousness_ . Princeton: Princeton University Press. $42.50 hbk. x + 374pp. ISBN: 0691027242. ABSTRACT: I discuss three issues about the relation of phenomenal consciousness, in the sense Siewert isolates, to.
Social externalism is the view that the contents of a person's propositional attitudes are logically determined at least in part by her linguistic community's standards for the use of her words. If social externalism is correct, its importance can hardly be overemphasized. The traditional Cartesian view of psychological states as essentially first personal and non-relational in character, which has shaped much theorizing about the nature of psychological explanation, would be shown to be deeply flawed. I argue in this paper that (...) social externalism faces insuperable difficulties. The first difficulty is that if syntax and semantics are independent, then social externalism is committed to the absurd consequence that many people have beliefs with formally inconsistent contents. I argue none of the possible responses to this objection are plausible. The second difficulty is that if syntax and semantics are independent, then social externalists are committed to a contradiction. After raising and defending these objections, I identify what I think is the underlying flaw in the social externalist position, a failure to pay attention to the structure of communication intentions, and briefly indicate how to neutralize the linguistic evidence social externalists advance in favor of their view. (shrink)
Philosophers constantly see the method of science before their eyes, and are irresistibly tempted to ask and answer questions in the way science does. This tendency is the real source of metaphysics and leads the philosopher into complete darkness.
Let us call a thought or belief whose content would be expressed by a sentence of subject-predicate form (by the thinker or someone attributing the thought to the thinker) an ‘ascription’. Thus, the thought that Madonna is middle-aged is an ascription of the property of being middle-aged to Madonna. To call a thought of this form an ascription is to emphasize the predicate in the sentence that gives its content. Let us call an ‘x-ascription’ an ascription whose subject is x, (...) that is, an ascription such that the subject of the sentence which would express its content is x. Let us call a ‘self-ascription’ an ascription whose subject is identical with the ascriber. Let us call a ‘reflexive ascription’ a selfascription such that either (i) in the sentence the ascriber would use to attribute correctly the ascription to himself he would use the first person pronoun to refer to himself both as the ascriber and as the subject of the ascription, as in a sentence of the form, I believe that I ö. (shrink)
I begin by distinguishing between what I will call a pure Fregean theory of reference and a theory of direct reference. A pure Fregean theory of reference holds that all reference to objects is determined by a sense or content. The kind of theory I have in mind is obviously inspired by Frege, but I will not be concerned with whether it is the theory that Frege himself held.1 A theory of direct reference, as I will understand it, denies that (...) all reference to objects is determined by sense or content. We will also distinguish between a theory of reference for thought, and for language. This gives us a fourfold classification of theories. What is puzzling about direct reference theories is not that the semantics of an expression in a public language should assign as its semantic value just a referent, but how such facts could be understood to reflect an underlying feature of thought. There are two interconnected aspects to this.. (shrink)
There is a great deal of terminological confusion in discussions of holism. While some well-known authors, such as Davidson and Quine, have used “holism” in various of their writings,2 it is not clear that they have held views attributed to them under that label, views that are said to have wildly counterintuitive results.3 In Davidson’s case, it is not clear that he is describing the same doctrine in each of his uses of “holism” or “holistic.” Critics of holism show a (...) similar license. My aim in this paper, therefore, cannot be to provide and to examine a characterization of content holism that matches every use that has been made of the term. I aim rather to give a precise form to a holistic doctrine at one end of a spectrum of views that ranges from localism or atomism about content to holism about content. This view has the wild consequences often attributed to holism. While it is dubious that anyone has ever seriously held the view I characterize,4 some view like it seems to be what critics often have in mind when arguing against content holism. It is therefore worthwhile to make it precise, to distinguish it from other, related views, and to examine its internal coherence. Thus, in this paper, I will, first, clarify the doctrine, or a doctrine, of content holism, and, second, argue that content holism (so characterized) is not just false (which may be readily granted) but self-contradictory. To begin, we must distinguish between meaning holism and content holism. Let us reserve the term “meaning holism” for doctrines which are about the conditions for the possibility of linguistic expressions having meanings. Meaning holism is therefore a doctrine in the domain of the philosophy of language. “Content holism,” in contrast, we will treat as a doctrine in the philosophy of mind, about the conditions for the possibility of a thought5 having a content. By “a content” we mean, intuitively, what.. (shrink)