Psychology: Autonomous or anomalous?

Dialogue 24 (3):427-42 (1985)
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In a recent series of papers, Donald Davidson has put forward a challenging and original philosophy of mind which he has called anomalous monism. Anomalous monism has certain similarities to another recent and deservedly popular position: functionalist cognitive psychology. Both functionalism, in its materialist versions, and anomalous monism require token-token psychophysical identities rather than type-type ones. Both deny that psychology can be translated into, or scientifically reduced to, neurophysiology. Both are mentalistic theories, allowing psychology to make use of intentional descriptions in its theorizing. Anomalous monism uses a belief/desire/action psychology; cognitive science makes use of information-bearing states. But these similarities must not be allowed to conceal an essential difference between the two positions. Cognitive psychology claims to be a science, making interesting, lawlike generalizations for the purpose of explaining mental activity. Anomalous monism denies that psychology is a science by denying that psychological laws can be formulated. Davidson has other ideas for psychology connected with his work on meaning and truth. Hence, the title of one of his essays on anomalous monism is “Psychology as Philosophy”.



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Andrew Kernohan
Dalhousie University

References found in this work

Functions.Larry Wright - 1973 - Philosophical Review 82 (2):139-168.
A Materialist Theory of the Mind.D. Armstrong - 1968 - Philosophical Quarterly 19 (74):73-79.
Form, function and feel.William G. Lycan - 1981 - Journal of Philosophy 78 (January):24-50.

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