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The Nature of Attitudes: Profiles of Situation-Specific Evaluative Response Dispositions

Bunge, Andreas (2017) The Nature of Attitudes: Profiles of Situation-Specific Evaluative Response Dispositions. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

In this thesis, I develop a model of the nature of attitudes, broadly construed as people’s evaluative tendencies towards other people qua members of social groups. I set out three desiderata for such a model: it should be conducive to explanations and predictions of people’s evaluative responses towards other people (D1), it should provide an appropriate guide to moral character assessment (D2), and it should be a model that all parties that use the notion of an attitude could possibly agree on (because this would simplify knowledge exchange between these parties; D3). According to a model that is prevalent in the contemporary psychological and philosophical literature on prejudice, people’s attitudes fall into two classes: implicit and explicit attitudes (both of which are specific kinds of mental states). I show that this account is not well motivated and argue that there is an alternative model of attitudes available that is more in line with desiderata D1, D2, and D3. Building upon an account by Machery (2016), I claim that attitudes are traits of people. As such, attitudes are neither implicit nor explicit, but they are typically grounded in sets of implicit and explicit mental states (e.g., conceptual associations, affects, beliefs, desires). Contra Machery, I argue that these attitudes are not properly characterised in aggregationist terms because this obscures relevant evaluative complexities of attitudes. Instead, these attitudes should be analysed as profiles of situation-specific evaluative response dispositions. This model does justice to the fact that people’s evaluative responses are strongly context-dependent. Taking this context dependence into account helps us to explain and predict people’s evaluative responses (D1) and to appropriately evaluate people’s moral characters (D2). Due to these benefits, the proposed model should appeal to different parties (philosophers, psychologists, and ordinary people) that rely on the notion of an attitude (D3).

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > Philosophy (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.739841
Depositing User: Andreas Bunge
Date Deposited: 09 May 2018 08:14
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2018 09:53
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/19917

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