In Self-Defence

  • John Foster


It is not just good fortune—not even the kind of good fortune that comes by natural selection or divine grace—that the functional role of our mental states, both (motivationally) in the production of behaviour and (cognitively) in the processing of sensory stimulation, is, by and large, appropriate to their psychological character. We cannot envisage someone in whom, throughout his life-history, role and character systematically conflict, someone whose behaviour is seldom or never rationally appropriate to the attitudes that cause it and whose sensory intake is seldom or never evidentially appropriate to the beliefs it causes. Why not? If, as many physicalists would like, we construed psychological character as functional role, this question would answer itself. But the answer would not do justice to our concept of mind. It would oblige us, counter to our intuitions, to ascribe mental states to any purely physical system which embodied the right functions.


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    P. F. Strawson, Individuals ( London: Methuen, 1959 ) pp. 101–2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    A. J. Ayer, The Origins of Pragmatism (London: Macmillan, 1968) pp. 263–88. The theory supersedes his earlier no-ownership theory.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Graham Macdonald, Michael Dummett, P. F. Strawson, David Pears, D. M. Armstrong, Charles Taylor, J. L. Mackie, David Wiggins, John Foster, Richard Wollheim, Peter Unger, Bernard Williams, Stephan Körner and A. J. Ayer 1979

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  • John Foster

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