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A Conflation of Folk Psychologies: A Commentary on Stich's “What is a Theory of Mental Representation?”

O’Brien, Gerard (1993) A Conflation of Folk Psychologies: A Commentary on Stich's “What is a Theory of Mental Representation?”. [Book Chapter] (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Stich begins his paper "What is a Theory of Mental Representation?" (1992) by noting that while there is a dizzying range of theories of mental representation in today's philosophical market place, there is very little self-conscious reflection about what a theory of mental representation is supposed to do. This is quite remarkable, he thinks, because if we bother to engage in such reflection, some very surprising conclusions begin to emerge. The most surprising conclusion of all, according to Stich, is that most of the philosophers in this field are undertaking work that is quite futile: It is my contention that most of the players in this very crowded field have no coherent project that could possibly be pursued successfully with the methods they are using. (p.244) Stich readily admits that this is a startling conclusion; so startling, he thinks, that some may even take it as an indication that he has simply "failed to figure out what those who are searching for a theory of mental representation are up to" (p.244). But it is a conclusion that he is willing to stand by, and he sets about it defending it in the body of his paper. Stich, I think, is right about this—I do take his conclusion to indicate that he has failed to figure out what those who are searching for a theory of mental representation are up to. And he has failed to do this largely because he has failed to distinguish between the theory of mind that is implicit in our folk psychology and the mental mechanism that is responsible for our capacity to make folk psychological judgements. When this conflation is undone, so too is the reasoning that takes Stich to his startling conclusion. This is not to say that the conclusion itself is clearly false; it is merely to say that Stich has failed to show that it is true. In what follows I will defend this analysis of Stich's self-conscious reflections on what a theory of mental representation is supposed to do. I will begin with a very brief exposition of Stich's survey of the logical terrain in this part of the philosophical landscape and the line of reasoning that subsequently delivers up the aforementioned conclusion. I will then go on to argue that the latter line of reasoning is fundamentally misdirected because of an error in the former survey.

Item Type:Book Chapter
Keywords:mental representation, folk psychology, philosophy of mind, explaining versus describing intentional properties of mental states
Subjects:Philosophy > Philosophy of Mind
ID Code:1450
Deposited By:Opie, Jon
Deposited On:16 Apr 2001
Last Modified:11 Mar 2011 08:54

References in Article

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