Content, intention, and explanation


Naturalistic theories of content and whether or not reason-giving explanations of human behavior are causal explanations have been central topics in recent philosophy of mind. Fred Dretske, in his book Explaining Behavior, attempts to construct a naturalistic theory of the contents of beliefs and desires that gives these mental states an important role in the causation of behavior. Even if Dretske is granted that the theory adequately accounts for individual behaviors the theory still faces problems in offering an adequate account of important features of extended sequences of behavior. Some sequences of behavior exhibit coherence in the sense that the elements of the sequence either contribute to the atttainment of a goal state or only make sense on the supposition that the goal state will be attained. Two ways of attaining coherence are distinguished. In chaining behavior coherence is guaranteed by the fit between the internal structure of the organism and the structure of the external environment. In other cases of coherence chaining is not available as an explanation. It is argued that Dretske.



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David R. Hilbert
University of Illinois, Chicago

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