Beliefs and Desires: from Attribution to Evaluation

Philosophia 45 (1):359-369 (2017)
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Abstract

The ability to attribute beliefs and desires is taken by many to be an essential component of human social cognition, enabling us to predict, explain and shape behaviour and other mental states. In this paper, I argue that there are certain basic responses to attributed attitudes which have thus far been overlooked in the study of social cognition, although they underlie many of the moves we make in our social interactions. The claim is that belief and desire attributions allow for the possibility to agree or disagree and to approve or disapprove, respectively. These evaluative responses may seem obvious but they are of considerable theoretical interest because they can’t be reduced to other roles of belief and desire attribution and are always an open possibility for attributers. What’s more, the responses of agreement/disagreement and approval/disapproval are indispensable for such attributions to be intelligible to us in the first place.

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Uku Tooming
University of Tartu

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