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A defence of dispositionalism

Owens, Gregory Ashley (2014) A defence of dispositionalism. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

In this thesis, I develop and defend a distinctive version of a position I call (following Schwitzgebel (2002)) phenomenal dispositionalism. On this view, having such-and-such beliefs, desires, character traits etc. is just a matter of having such-and-such behavioural, cognitive and phenomenal dispositions; dispositions, roughly, to act, think and feel thus-and-so in such-and-such circumstances. Phenomenal dispositionalism has its roots in Ryle (2000) (who, I argue, is no behaviourist). Just as Ryle frames his position as an alternative to the Cartesian ‘Official Doctrine’ of his day, I frame mine as an alternative to what Baker (1995) calls the ‘Standard View’ in contemporary philosophy of mind (roughly, the view that mental states are brain states). In Baker’s view and in mine, Standard View theorists repeat the Cartesian error of construing the mind as a causal system. I attack this error at what I take to be its root, arguing (contra Mumford (1998)) that disposition ascription does not and cannot work by picking out particular internal properties or states of the object of ascription, occupying particular causal roles. Nonetheless, I argue, disposition ascriptions (including mental state ascriptions) can explain - and (pace Ryle) explain causally. The role of ‘folk psychological’ language, I argue, is not to pick out internal states occupying particular causal roles. Nor (pace Schwitzgebel) is it to assert subjects’ conformity to ‘dispositional stereotypes’ for each individual mental state ascribed to them. Rather, it is holistically to describe subjects’ dispositional profiles - their overall sets of behavioural, phenomenal and cognitive dispositions. I argue that our rich, everyday mental-state taxonomy is fit for this purpose, and stands in no need of revision either by those who are inclined to boil it down to beliefs and desires, or those who posit ‘aliefs’ in order to fill the explanatory gaps this leaves us with (Gendler, 2008a).

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
ISBN: 978-0-85731-875-6
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of Philosophy, Religion and the History of Science
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.724378
Depositing User: Repository Administrator
Date Deposited: 09 Oct 2017 08:58
Last Modified: 25 Jul 2018 09:55
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/6914

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