Philosophical Studies

, Volume 165, Issue 3, pp 921–937 | Cite as

Conceptual analysis as armchair psychology: in defense of methodological naturalism



Three proponents of the Canberra Plan, namely Jackson, Pettit, and Smith, have developed a collective functionalist program—Canberra Functionalism—spanning from philosophical psychology to ethics. They argue that conceptual analysis is an indispensible tool for research on cognitive processes since it reveals that there are some folk concepts, like belief and desire, whose functional roles must be preserved rather than eliminated by future scientific explanations. Some naturalists have recently challenged this indispensability argument, though the point of that challenge has been blunted by a mutual conflation of metaphysical and methodological strands of naturalism. I argue that the naturalist’s challenge to the indispensability argument, like naturalism itself, ought to be reformulated as a strictly methodological thesis. So understood, the challenge succeeds by showing (1) that we cannot know a priori on the basis of conceptual analysis of folk platitudes that something must occupy the functional roles specified for beliefs and desires, and (2) that proponents of Canberra Functionalism sometimes tacitly concede this point by treating substantive psychological theories as the deliverances of a priori platitudes analysis.


Canberra Plan Naturalism Conceptual analysis Philosophical psychology Philosophical methodology Folk psychology Beliefs and desires Platitudes analysis Neuroscience Psychology 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Humanities and Social SciencesRose-Hulman Institute of TechnologyTerre HauteUSA

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