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PPR Research Seminar

Date: 23 February 2011 Time: 4.00-6.00 pm

Venue: Bowland North SR10

Richard Floyd - What does the Theory-Theory Entail?


This paper looks at the implications of the "theory-theory" of commonsense psychology for the metaphysics of mind. One of the main reasons one might suspect that mental state terms like "belief" and "desire" refer to inner particulars is that commonsense psychology (CP) is a theory which, it is claimed, postulates hidden particulars to explain observable events. In the literature this claim about the referrents of mental state terms is often assumed to be the case without argument, and significant conclusions are drawn about the nature of mind: David Lewis concludes that beliefs and desires are identical with brain states, while at the other end of the spectrum Paul Churchland concludes that the hidden particulars are in fact non-existent and that therefore people do not really believe or desire. It seems presumptuous to begin discussing the nature of the things CP postulates or the question of whether or not those things exist at all without first establishing whether or not CP is the sort of theory that postulates things. In this paper I argue that while there are very good reasons for thinking that CP is a theory, it does not follow from this that its terms refer to hidden particulars. I discuss what might be required of something for it to be considered a theory, concluding that CP meets the requirements. Following this I introduce some examples of theories which do not appear to quantify over unobservable particulars (in contrast with, for example, atomic theory) with the aim of showing that the fact that a theoretical term does not refer to anything observable does not entail that it refers to something hidden. I have argued elsewhere that CP is a theory of this sort - whose terms do not refer in the way that they are commonly thought to - but whether or not this is the case, the assumption implicit in the work of Lewis and Churchland is unsafe.


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Organising departments and research centres: Politics, Philosophy and Religion PPR


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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Lancaster University
Lancaster LA1 4YD
United Kingdom

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