Advertisement

Synthese

, Volume 87, Issue 3, pp 379–400 | Cite as

Belief attribution in science: Folk psychology under theoretical stress

  • J. D. Trout
Article

Abstract

Some eliminativists have predicted that a developed neuroscience will eradicate the principles and theoretical kinds (belief, desire, etc.) implicit in our ordinary practices of mental state attribution. Prevailing defenses of common-sense psychology infer its basic integrity from its familiarity and instrumental success in everyday social commerce. Such common-sense defenses charge that eliminativist arguments are self-defeating in their folk psychological appeal to the belief that eliminativism is true. I argue that eliminativism is untouched by this simple charge of inconsistency, and introduce a different dialectical strategy for arguing against the eliminativist. In keeping with the naturalistic trend in the sociology and philosophy of science, I show that neuroscientists routinely rely on folk psychological procedures of intentional state attribution in applying epistemically reliable standards of scientific evaluation. These scientific contexts place ordinary procedures of attribution under greater stress, producing evidence of folk psychological success that is less equivocal than the evidence in mundane settings. Therefore, the dependence of science on folk psychology, when combined with an independently plausible explanatory constraint on reduction and an independently motivated notion of theoretical stress, allows us to reconstitute the charge of (neurophilic) eliminativist inconsistency in a more sophisticated form.

Keywords

Folk Psychology Belief Attribution State Attribution Theoretical Stress Ordinary Practice 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Baker, L. R.: 1987, Saving Belief, Princeton University Press, Princeton.Google Scholar
  2. Bennett, M.: 1977, ‘Electrical Transmission: A Functional Analysis and Comparison to Chemical Transmission’, in Kandel, E. R. (ed.), Handbook of Physiology: The Nervous System. Vol. I, Part I, American Physiological Society, Bethesda, MD, pp. 357–416.Google Scholar
  3. Boyd, R.: 1973, ‘Realism, Underdetermination, and a Causal Theory of Evidence’, Nous 7, 1–12.Google Scholar
  4. Churchland, P. Smith: 1982, ‘Mind-Brain Reduction: New Light from the Philosophy of Science’, Neuroscience 7(5), 1041–47.Google Scholar
  5. Churchland, P. Smith: 1986, Neurophilosophy, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  6. Churchland, P. M.: 1979, Scientific Realism and the Plasticity of Mind, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  7. Churchland, P. M.: 1981, ‘Eliminative Materialism and the Propositional Attitudes’, Journal of Philosophy 78, 67–90.Google Scholar
  8. Churchland, P. M.: 1985, ‘Reduction, Qualia, and the Direct Introspection of Brain States’, Journal of Philosophy 82, 8–28.Google Scholar
  9. Churchland, P. M.: 1988, Matter and Consciousness, 2d edition, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  10. Dale, H., Feldberg, W., and Vogt, M.: 1936, ‘Release of Acetylcholine at Voluntary Motor Nerve Endings’, Journal of Physiology 86, 353–80.Google Scholar
  11. Dawes, R.: 1988, Rational Choice in an Uncertain World, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York.Google Scholar
  12. Del Castillo, J., and Katz, B.: 1954, ‘The Membrane Change Produced by the Neuromuscular Transmitter’, Journal of Physiology 125, 546–65.Google Scholar
  13. Dennett, D.: 1978, Brainstorms, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  14. Dennett, D.: 1981, ‘Three Kinds of Intentional Psychology’, in Healey, R. (ed.), Reduction, Time & Reality, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 37–61.Google Scholar
  15. Eccles, J., Katz, B., and Kuffler, S.: 1942, ‘Effect of Eserine on Neuromuscular Transmission’, Journal of Neurophysiology 5, 211–30.Google Scholar
  16. Fatt, P. and Katz, B.: 1951, ‘An Analysis of the End-plate Potential Recorded with an Intra-cellular Electrode’, Journal of Physiology 115, 320–70.Google Scholar
  17. Fodor, J.: 1986, ‘Banish Discontent’, in Butterfield, J. (ed.), Language, Mind and Logic, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 1–23.Google Scholar
  18. Furshpan, E. and Potter, D.: 1959, ‘Transmission at the Giant Motor Synapse of the Crayfish’, Journal of Physiology 5, 289–325.Google Scholar
  19. Giere, R.: 1988, Explaining Science, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  20. Hardin, C., and Rosenberg, A.: 1982, ‘In Defense of Convergent Realism’, Philosophy of Science 49, 604–15.Google Scholar
  21. Hempel, C.: 1966, Philosophy of Natural Science, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.Google Scholar
  22. Hooker, C.: 1981, ‘Towards a General Theory of Reduction’, Dialogue 20, 38–59, 201–36, 496–529.Google Scholar
  23. Horgan, T. and Woodward, J.: 1985, ‘Folk Psychology is Here to Stay’, The Philosophical Review 94, 197–226.Google Scholar
  24. Horwich, P.: 1982, Probability and Evidence, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  25. Jaspars, J., Fincham, F., and Hewstone, M. (eds.): 1983, Attribution Theory and Research: Conceptual, Developmental and Social Dimensions, Academic Press, New York.Google Scholar
  26. Kuffler, S., Nicholls, J., and Martin, A.: 1984, From Neuron to Brain, Sinauer, Sunderland, MA.Google Scholar
  27. Laudan, L.: 1981, ‘A Confutation of Convergent Realism’, Philosophy of Science 48, 19–49.Google Scholar
  28. MacKay, A.: 1983, ‘The Incredibility of Rejecting Belief-Desire Explanations’, in Asquith, P. and Nickles, T. (eds.), Philosophy of Science Association 1982 Vol. 2, Philosophy of Science Association, East Lansing, MI.Google Scholar
  29. Martin, A. and Pilar, G.: 1963, ‘Dual Mode of Synaptic Transmission in the Avian Ciliary Ganglion’, Journal of Physiology 168, 443–63.Google Scholar
  30. Nisbett, R. and Ross, L.: 1980, Human Inference: Strategies and Shortcomings of Social Judgment, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.Google Scholar
  31. Putnam, H.: 1975, ‘Explanation and Reference’, in Putnam, H., Philosophical Papers: Volume II, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 196–214.Google Scholar
  32. Takeuchi, A. and Takeuchi, N.: 1960, ‘On the Permeability of the End-plate Membrane during the Action of Transmission’, Journal of Physiology 154, 52–67.Google Scholar
  33. Trout, J. D.: 1988, ‘Attribution, Content, and Method: A Scientific Defense of Commonsense Psychology’, unpublished PhD dissertation, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.Google Scholar
  34. Trout, J. D.: forthcoming, ‘Theory-Conjunction and Mercenary Reliance’, Philosophy of Science.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. D. Trout
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, 309 Patton HallVirginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityBlacksburgUSA

Personalised recommendations