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Teleological Realism: Mind, Agency, and Explanation

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Using the language of common-sense psychology (CSP), we explain human behavior by citing its reason or purpose, and this is central to our understanding of human beings as agents. On the other hand, since human beings are physical objects, human behavior should also be explicable in the language of physical science, in which causal accounts cast human beings as collections of physical particles. CSP talk of mind and agency, however, does not seem to mesh well with the language of physical science.In Teleological ...

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Overview

Using the language of common-sense psychology (CSP), we explain human behavior by citing its reason or purpose, and this is central to our understanding of human beings as agents. On the other hand, since human beings are physical objects, human behavior should also be explicable in the language of physical science, in which causal accounts cast human beings as collections of physical particles. CSP talk of mind and agency, however, does not seem to mesh well with the language of physical science.In Teleological Realism, Scott Sehon argues that CSP explanations are not causal but teleological — that they cite the purpose or goal of the behavior in question rather than an antecedent state that caused the behavior. CSP explanations of behavior, Sehon claims, are answering a question different from that answered by physical science explanations, and, accordingly, CSP explanations and physical science explanations are independent of one another.

Common-sense facts about mind and agency can thus be independent of the physical facts about human beings, and, contrary to the views of most philosophers of mind in recent decades, common-sense psychology will not be subsumed by physical science.Sehon defends his non-reductionist account of mind and agency in clear and nontechnical language. He carefully distinguishes his view from forms of "strong naturalism" that would seem to preclude it. And he evaluates key objections to teleological realism, including those posed by Donald Davidson's influential article "Actions, Reasons and Causes" and some put forth by more recent proponents of causal theories of action. CSP, Sehon argues, has a different realm than does physical science; the normative notions that are central to CSP are not reducible to physical facts and laws.

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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
"For over forty years, the orthodox view in the philosophy of mind has been that common-sense psychological explanations of human actions are causal explanations. In his lucid and elegant monograph, Scott Sehon challenges this orthodoxy. Sehon develops a detailed and original argument against the main assumptions of the causal view and outlines his own 'teleological realist' alternative. This is one of the strongest recent defenses of the non-causal view,and it deserves to be taken seriously by all philosophers of mind and action. In addition to being a new and first-rate piece of philosophical research, Sehon's book is so clearly written that it can be fruitfully used as a graduate or upper-level undergraduate text."—Tim Crane, Department of Philosophy, University College London
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262195355
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 8/1/2005
  • Series: Bradford Books Series
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Scott Sehon is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Bowdoin College.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi
I
1 Introduction 3
1.1 The Mystery 3
1.2 Reformulation of the Mystery 5
1.3 Addressing the Reformulated Question 8
1.4 Why Care? 10
1.5 Preview of the Teleological Realist Answer 12
2 Substance Dualism and Simplicity 15
2.1 Why People Believe Substance Dualism 16
2.2 Against Substance Dualism 17
2.3 Prospects for Dualism 22
2.4 Preview of the Simplicity Objection against Option 3 24
3 Entailment and the Three Options 27
3.1 Reduction and the Need for Bridge Laws 28
3.2 The Options Revisited 32
3.3 Hooker-Churchland Reduction 33
4 Functionalism and Option 2 39
4.1 Basic Exposition of Functionalism 39
4.2 More Detailed Exposition of Functionalism 42
4.3 Biconditionals and Bridge Laws 45
4.4 Missed Generalizations and Autonomy? 48
II
5 Strong Naturalism and Common-Sense Psychology 55
5.1 The Proto-Science View of CSP 56
5.2 Normativity 58
5.3 Sensitivity to Context 63
5.4 Mental States and Natural Kinds 64
6 Against the Causal Theory of Action Explanation 75
6.1 The Case for (BE) 76
6.2 The Case against the Standard View 84
6.3 Conclusion 89
7 Agency and Deviant Causal Chains 91
7.1 The Problem 91
7.2 A Solution Suggested by Mele 94
7.3 Bishop and Peacocke's Attempted Solution 99
7.4 Conclusion 108
III
8 Supervenience without Reduction: Option 3 without the Supernatural 113
8.1 Definition of 'Supervenience' 114
8.2 Does Supervenience Matter? 117
8.3 Supervenience Does Not Entail Reduction: Three Proofs 119
8.4 Application to Mind-Body Supervenience 126
8.5 Explanations for Supervenience 129
8.6 Conclusion 134
9 Agency and Teleological Explanation 135
9.1 The Form of Teleological Explanation 135
9.2 The Rationality Principle 138
9.3 Applying the Rationality Principle 142
9.4 The Nature of Reasons 148
9.5 Observations about the Account 151
10 Objections to the Teleological Account 155
10.1 Davidson's Challenge 156
10.2 Obscurity and the Spectrum of Cases 160
10.3 Mele's Challenge 167
10.4 Simplicity Challenge 171
10.5 A Final Objection 172
Appendix Dancy and Schueler 175
11 Responsibility and the Humean Theory of Motivation 183
11.1 The Humean Theory and Moral Skepticism 183
11.2 Prima Facie Evidence against the Human Theory 186
11.3 The Humean Theory and the Causal Theory of Action 188
11.4 The Humean Theory and Teleological Realism 189
11.5 Smith's Argument for the Humean Theory 193
12 Option 3 with the Causal Theory of Action? 199
12.1 Explanatory Exclusion and the Causal Theory of Action 199
12.2 Program Explanations 205
12.3 Baker's Defense of the Autonomy of CSP 208
12.4 Instrumentalism 209
12.5 Conclusion 114
13 Simplicity, Realism, and Eliminative Materialism 215
13.1 The Mystery Introduced by Teleological Realism 215
13.2 Teleological Realism's Reply 219
13.3 Objection Renewed: the Challenge of Eliminativism 222
13.4 Conclusion 214
Notes 233
References 237
Index 243
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