The Inner Life of a Rational Agent

The Inner Life of a Rational Agent: In Defence of Philosophical Behaviourism

Rowland Stout
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    The Inner Life of a Rational Agent
    Book Description:

    A systematic and completely original theoretical approach to the philosophy of mind.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-2673-1
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Part I Context
    • 1 Introduction
      (pp. 3-20)

      In this book I want to present a new theory of the mind, but a theory that has something in common with an old and discredited theory – the theory of behaviourism. I want to defend the following behaviourist claim:

      What it is to be in a certain state of mind is to be disposed to behave in a certain way.

      When we describe and study somebody’s mind what we are describing and studying is the way that person is disposed to behave. A person’s mind does not exist behind the way that person is disposed to behave; it is...

    • 2 Behaviourism
      (pp. 21-36)

      Philosophical behaviourism is a view about the nature of the mind, the concept of mind and mental predicates. It may remain neutral about how the science of the mind should be pursued. Psychological behaviourism on the other hand is committed to the methodological claim that the scientific study of animal psychology should be limited to the scientific study of animal behaviour. So it has been common for philosophers to make a complete separation between the two kinds of behaviourism.

      This has partly been in an attempt to dissociate behaviourism from the deeply unpopular views of hard-line psychological behaviourists like B....

    • 3 Functionalism
      (pp. 37-58)

      Psychological behaviourism, having swept aside the prevailing orthodoxy of introspectionism early in the twentieth century, was then itself replaced by a new paradigm in psychology – cognitivism. While accepting a broadly behaviourist denial of introspection, cognitive psychology rejected the behaviourist claim that the subject matter of psychology is just patterns of behaviour. Cognitive psychology looked for mechanisms behind these patterns and found them by positing internal representations as causally explanatory entities.

      These internal representations do not have to be conceived of as inhabiting a special mental realm. They are to be conceived of as being implemented in the hardware of...

  5. Part II What is a Disposition to Behave in a Certain Way?
    • 4 Dispositions to Behave
      (pp. 61-77)

      One of the standard arguments against philosophical behaviourism is the argument from causation. According to behaviourism, describing someone’s state of mind is describing how that person is disposed to behave. But, according to this standard argument, in describing someone’s state of mind you are really describing what makes that person disposed to act in the way he or she does, not simply that that person is disposed to act that way. So, by this argument, behaviourism misrepresents the causal role of the mind.¹

      According to behaviourism the relation represented by the bottom left arrow in Figure 4.1 is that of...

    • 5 Ways of Behaving
      (pp. 78-98)

      I argued in the previous chapter that a disposition to behave in a certain way is a real state of an organism or person which entitles one to make inferences about its behaviour. These inferences are characterised by conditional statements or laws. The disposition amounts to the embodiment by that organism or person of a mechanism whose working is described by that law. The law need not be universally true, but describes what results in certain specified circumstances when the disposition is operational and not interfered with.

      I also argued that mental states should be identified with these dispositional states...

    • 6 Rationality and Interpretation
      (pp. 99-118)

      A way of behaving is a way to behave. It is a system of deriving recommendations of the form: ‘Such-and-such is the thing to do,’ from descriptions of the circumstances. So a way of behaving must be characterised normatively. For example, one of the rules characterising someone’s way of behaving might be: ‘If you are in a supermarket doing the shopping and you need milk then the thing to do is to pick a carton of milk from the shelf.’ An input into such a system might be the fact that you are in a supermarket doing the shopping and...

  6. Part III The Theory Applied
    • 7 Beliefs
      (pp. 121-144)

      I have been presenting a behaviourist account of the mind that takes off from the claim discussed in Chapter 5 that a rational agent is disposed to behave in a way that is sensitive to practical rationality. In Chapter 6 I argued that practical rationality is open-ended and dynamic. This means that at any one time, in being sensitive to practical rationality, an agent’s behaviour is governed by a particular version of practical rationality, but that this version, as part of its very nature, is subject to revision.

      Given this notion of what it is to be a rational agent...

    • 8 Intentions
      (pp. 145-160)

      According to the behaviourist model I have been developing, to describe someone’s state of mind is to describe the version of practical rationality that the person’s way of behaving is governed by. So the idea of my intending to achieve goal G, and therefore of my behaviour being directed to G, may be spelt out by saying that I am disposed to behave in a way that is governed by a version of practical rationality that unconditionally recommends that G is to be achieved.

      Suppose that your way of behaving is characterised by a version of practical rationality that recommends...

    • 9 Knowledge
      (pp. 161-186)

      In this chapter I am going to argue that the concept of knowledge simply falls out of the behaviourist model of the mind that I have outlined so far. I think that this is a big selling point. The traditional approach to the philosophy of knowledge has been to construct the concept of knowledge out of other, apparently better understood, elements like belief and justification. In this traditional approach, the philosophy of mind is relevant only in providing an account of belief. Then epistemology is supposed to be concerned with outlining the special relationship that belief must have with the...

    • 10 Consciousness
      (pp. 187-212)

      One of the apparent difficulties with behaviourism is that it treats the mind in a dispositional way, while not everything in the mind is dispositional. In particular, mental occurrences are not states at all and so cannot be dispositions to behave. For example, having a thought, noticing something, having a pang of regret, calculating a sum in one’s head, silently reciting a poem can none of them be dispositions to behave.

      Descartes’ conception of the mind starts with occurrent processes of thought like the process of thinking that one is thinking or the process of doubting whether one is thinking....

  7. Bibliography
    (pp. 213-218)
  8. Index
    (pp. 219-221)