A Dispositional Approach to Attitudes: Thinking Outside of the Belief Box

  • Eric Schwitzgebel


I offer here an account of what it is to have an attitude. I intend this account to be entirely general — to include all the “propositional attitudes” (believing, desiring, intending, fearing, hoping …), the “reactive attitudes” (resenting, appreciating, forgiving, being angry with …), and other types of attitudes that appear to be directed toward people, things, or events (loving Tim, trusting Elena, hating jazz, having a “bad attitude” about school, valuing kindness over intelligence, approving of the President’s foreign policy decisions …). I will argue that to have an attitude is, primarily, (1) to have a dispositional profile that matches, to an appropriate degree and in appropriate respects, a stereotype for that attitude, typically grounded in folk psychology, and secondarily, (2) in some cases also to meet further stereotypical attitude-specific conditions. To have an attitude, on the account I will recommend here, is mainly a matter of being apt to interact with the world in patterns that ordinary people would regard as characteristic of having that attitude.


Personality Trait Surface Phenomenon Dispositional Property Deep Condition Folk Psychology 
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.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Allen, Colin. 1992, “Mental Content”, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 43, 537–553.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Andrews, Kristin. 2008/2011, “Animal Cognition”, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2011 Edition).Google Scholar
  3. Armstrong, D. M., C. B. Martin, and U. T. Place. 1996, Dispositions: A Debate. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  4. Audi, Robert. 1994, Dispositional beliefs and dispositions to believe, Noûs 28, 419–434.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baier, Annette. 1985, Postures of the Mind. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota.Google Scholar
  6. Bartlett, F. C. 1932, Remembering, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Blumson, Ben. 2012, Mental maps. Philosophy & Phenomenological Research, 85, 413–434.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Braddon-Mitchell, David, and Frank Jackson. 1996, Philosophy of Mind and Cognition. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  9. Brandom, Robert B. 1994, Making It Explicit. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Bromwich, Danielle. 2010, “Clearing Conceptual Space for Cognitivist Motivational Internalism”, Philosophical Studies 148, 343–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Carruthers, Peter. 2006, The Architecture of the Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cartwright, Nancy. 1983, How the Laws of Physics Lie. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cummins, Robert. 1996, Representations, Targets, and Attitudes. Cambridge, MA: MIT.Google Scholar
  14. Davidson, Donald. 1982, Rational Animals. Dialectica 36, 317–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. —. 1984, Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  16. —. 1987, Knowing One’s Own Mind. Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 61, 441–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dennett, Daniel C. 1978, Brainstorms, Cambridge, MA: MIT.Google Scholar
  18. —. 1987, The Intentional Stance, Cambridge, MA: MIT.Google Scholar
  19. Dretske, Fred. 1988, Explaining Behavior, Cambridge, MA: MIT.Google Scholar
  20. —. 1995, Naturalizing the Mind. Cambridge, MA: MIT.Google Scholar
  21. Dupré, John. 1993, The Disorder of Things. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  22. —. 2002, Humans and Other Animals. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Evans, Jonathan St. B. T. 2008, “Dual-process Accounts of Reasoning, Judgment, and Social Cognition”, Annual Review of Psychology 59, 255–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Fara, Michael, 2005, “Dispositions and habituals”, Noûs 39, 43–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Fodor, Terry A. 1987, Psychosemantics. Cambridge, MA: MIT.Google Scholar
  26. Frankish, Keith. 2004. Mind and Supermind. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gendler. Tamar Szabó. 2008a. “Alief and belief”. Journal of Philosophy 105, 634–663.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. &#x2014. 2008b, “Alief in Action (and Reaction)”, Mind & Language 23, 552–585.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Helm, Bennett. 2005/2009, “Love”, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2009 edition).Google Scholar
  30. Hutto, Daniel D. 2004, “The Limits of Spectatorial Folk Psychology”, Mind & Language 19, 548–573.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lewis, David. 1980, “Mad pain and Martian pain”, in Block, N. (ed.), Readings in Philosophy of Psychology, vol. 1, ed. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  32. —. 1994, “Reduction of Mind”, in Guttenplan, S. (ed.), Companion to Philosophy of Mind Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  33. Locke, John. 1690/1975, Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Nidditch, P. H. (ed.) Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Margolis, Joseph. 1973, Knowledge and Existence, New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  35. McGeer, Victoria. 2007, “The Regulative Dimension of Folk Psychology”. In Hutto, D. D. and Ratcliffe, M. (eds), Folk Psychology Re-assessed, Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  36. McGeer, Victoria, and Eric Schwitzgebel. 2006, “Disorder in the Representational Warehouse”, Developmental Psychology 77, 1557–1562.Google Scholar
  37. Millikan, Ruth Garrett. 1984, Language, Thought, and Other Biological Categories. Cambridge, MA: MIT.Google Scholar
  38. —. 1996, “On Swampkinds”, Mind & Language 11, 103–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Morton, Adam. 2003, The Importance of Being Understood, London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  40. Mumford, Stephen. 1998, Dispositions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Murphy, Dominic. 2006, Psychiatry in the Scientific Image. Cambridge, MA: MIT.Google Scholar
  42. Myers-Schulz, Blake, and Eric Schwitzgebel (forthcoming). “Knowing That P without Believing That P”, Noûs.Google Scholar
  43. Naar, Hichem. forthcoming, “A Dispositional Theory of Love”, Pacific Philosophical Quarterly.Google Scholar
  44. Neander, Karen. 1996, “Swampman Meets Swampcow”, Mind & Language 11, 118–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Neisser, Ulric. 1967, Cognitive Psychology, East Norwalk, CT: Appleton-Century-Crofts.Google Scholar
  46. Petty, Richard E., Russell H. Fazio, and Pablo Briñol, (eds) 2009, Attitudes: Insights from the New Implicit Measures. New York: Taylor and Francis.Google Scholar
  47. Price, H. H. 1969, Belief. London: Allen & Unwin.Google Scholar
  48. Prior, Elizabeth W. 1985, Dispositions, Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Aberdeen.Google Scholar
  49. Putnam, Hilary. 1975, Mind, Language, and Reality. London: Cambridge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Roediger, Henry L. 1980, “Memory Metaphors in Cognitive Psychology”, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning and Memory6, 558–567.Google Scholar
  51. Ross, Lee, and Richard E. Nisbett. 1991, The Person and the Situation. Philadelphia: Temple.Google Scholar
  52. Routley, Richard. 1981, “Alleged Problems in Attributing Beliefs and Intentionality to Animals”, Inquiry 24, 385–417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Ryle, Gilbert. 1949. The Concept of Mind, New York: Barnes & Noble.Google Scholar
  54. Schroeder, Timothy. 2004, Three Faces of Desire. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Schwitzgebel, Eric. 1999, “Gradual Belief Change in Children”, Human Development 42, 283–296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. 2001, “In-between Believing”, Philosophical Quarterly 51, 76–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Schwitzgebel, Eric. 2002, “A Phenomenal, Dispositional Account of Belief”, Noûs 36, 249–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. —. 2006/2010, “Belief”, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2011 edition).Google Scholar
  59. —. (2010), “Acting Contrary to Our Professed Beliefs, or the Gulf between Occurrent Judgment and Dispositional Belief”, Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 91, 531–553.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. —. (2012a), “Do You Have Infinitely Many Beliefs about the Number of Planets? Blog post at The Splintered Mind”: (Oct. 17, 2012).Google Scholar
  61. —. (2012a), “Do You Have Infinitely Many Beliefs about the Number of Planets? Blog post at The Splintered Mind”: (Oct. 17, 2012).Google Scholar
  62. &#x2014. (2012b), “Mad belief?” Neuro Ethics 5, 13–17.Google Scholar
  63. —. (2012c). “Self-ignorance”, in Liu, J. and Perry, J (eds), Consciousness and the Self, Cambridge: Cambridge.Google Scholar
  64. Smith, Peter. 1982, “On Animal Beliefs”, Southern Journal of Philosophy 20, 503–512.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Stich, Stephen P. 1979, “Do animals have beliefs?” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 57, 15–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Steinberg, Jesse. 2011, “Weak Motivational Internalism Lite: Dispositions, Moral Judgments, and What We’re Motivated to Do”, Canadian Journal of Philosophy, supplementaty volume 35 (Belief and agency, ed. D. Hunter), 1–24.Google Scholar
  67. Sutton, John. 1998, Philosophy and Memory Traces. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  68. Wittenbrink, Bernd, and Norbert Schwarz (eds), 2007, Implicit Measures of Attitudes. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Eric Schwitzgebel 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eric Schwitzgebel

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations