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Rational Causation

Rational Causation

Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Rational Causation
    Book Description:

    Contemporary philosophers of mind tend to explain rationality by viewing the mind as a kind of machine—the only alternative, it has seemed, to a ghostly supernatural explanation. Marcus rejects this choice as false and defends a third way—via rational causation, which draws on the theoretical and practical inferential abilities of human beings.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-06533-8
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-13)

    This book examines how we explain what someone thinks or does by citing her reasons. How do such explanations work? And what does the fact that they work tell us about the nature of reality? Contemporary efforts to address these questions are often motivated in part by the concern that our ordinary conception of rationality contains at least a kernel of outdated science or supernaturalist ideology, as if a completely unguarded articulation of this conception would describe a ghostly presence animating our bodily machinery, meditating on the sensory messages received from perceptual organs and subsequently orchestrating physical motions on the...

  4. 1 Rational Explanation of Belief
    (pp. 14-64)

    A rational explanation of belief cites a believer’s reasons and, in so doing, appeals to the exercise of a rational ability. To understand the way such explanations work, one must understand the ability. It is, I argue, a self-conscious ability to know facts on the basis of other known facts. To put it in the quasi-technical language that I develop over the course of this chapter, it is the ability to represent a known fact as a proposition whose to-be-believed-ness establishes the to-be-believed-ness of another proposition, which represents a further, thereby known fact. My overarching methodology—to study the form...

  5. 2 Rational Explanation of Action
    (pp. 65-115)

    The rational explanation of action is often referred to as belief-desire explanation. Although the label is generally viewed as specifying a topic, as opposed to a theoretical orientation, those who employ it tend to agree that to give someone’s reason for acting is to cite what are ultimately internal, physically realized psychological triggers of bodily movement. Our ‘folk theories’ of action (perhaps refined by a scientific psychology) specify the causal profile of the triggers that constitute our reasons for action, as opposed to mere causes of action. But this psychologistic approach to practical rationality is based on a misconstrual of...

  6. 3 (Non-Human) Animals and Their Reasons
    (pp. 116-144)

    ‘Naturalism’ is a disputed label in philosophical taxonomy. Few aspire to a view conceived of as ‘supernaturalist.’ But in the philosophy of mind, ‘naturalism’ has come (albeit not without resistance)¹ to encompass both (a) the thesis that human beings are no less a product of the natural development of the world than ants, alligators, and apes and (b) the thesis that there are differences only of degree between the cognitive abilities of human beings and those of intelligent non-human animals (from now on, just ‘animals’). Through this tendentious labeling, philosophers who are happy to accept (a) but who balk at...

  7. 4 Rational Explanation and Rational Causation
    (pp. 145-182)

    Rational explanation is a kind of causal explanation, according to the orthodox, psychologistic view. Indeed, many prominent critics of Psychologism also embrace causalism about rational explanation, as I will call it.¹ Prior to Davidson’s “Actions, Reasons, and Causes,” the issue was treated, much more so than now, as an open question. This development has been remarkable in part because it is somewhat mysterious. As I shall show here, it is surprisingly difficult to say how precisely that paper’s most influential argument is supposed to work. When the dust settles, we shall see that his argument rules out much less than...

  8. 5 Events and States
    (pp. 183-221)

    A central ambition of philosophers of mind is to show both that and how the mind matters to the way the world is. Events and states are considered vehicles of the mind’s mattering, in the sense that the ambition is thought likely to be achieved by establishing the efficacy of mental events and states. The orthodox, naturalistic presumption is that establishing their efficacy will amount to revealing the intimate relation that they stand in to physical events and states: identity, realization, or supervenience of some strong variety. The horizontal project of tracking the mental’s influence is thereby joined, via these...

  9. 6 Physicalism
    (pp. 222-260)

    Physicalism has been dominant in the philosophy of mind for at least the past fifty years. Most philosophers of mind consider themselves physicalists of one sort or another. Many treat it simply as a rule of ‘the game’ that any reason for thinking that one view is somehow more entitled to the label ‘physicalism’ than another is ipso facto a reason for favoring the one over the other. A more subtle manifestation of this mood is the manner in which views of the mind are classified, viz., in terms of how they represent the relation between the mind and the...

  10. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 261-262)
  11. Index
    (pp. 263-266)