In defense of the standard view

ProtoSociology 14:312-331 (2000)
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In Explaining Attitudes, Lynne Rudder Baker considers two views of what it is to have a propositional attitude, the Standard View and Pragmatic Realism, and attempts to argue for Pragmatic Realism. The Standard View is, roughly, the view that “the attitudes, if there are any, are particular brain states”. In contrast, Pragmatic Realism that a person has a propositional attitude if and only if there are certain counterfactuals true of that person.Baker’s case against the Standard View is a complex one. One aspect of that case is that there are no good general arguments for the Standard View. We argue that one of the three she considers, an argument from causal explanation, can be defended. The problematic premise, according to Baker, is the claim that unless beliefs are [identical to, constituted by, or realized by] brain states, they cannot causally explain behavior. Baker tackles this premise in two ways: in Chapter 4, she attempts to undermine the brain-explain thesis by taking issue with the conception of causal explanation that she believes supports it; in Chapter 5, she argues against the brain-explain thesis directly, by attempting to show that it is false, whether or not the Standard View is true. Neither of these attempts are successful, on our view.The alternative version of the causal argument we develop uses the doctrine of physicalism as a supplementary premise rather than appeal to a reductive conception of causal explanation. After presenting this alternative version, we consider how Baker might respond to it by drawing on her discussion of materialism. We conclude that Baker’s argument against materialism does not generalize to physicalism as we construe it.



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Barbara Von Eckardt
Rhode Island School of Design

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