Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Fodor on mental causation

"if it isn't literally true that my wanting is causally responsible for my reaching, and my itching is causally responsible for my scratching, and my believing is causally responsible for my saying. ..if none of that is literally true, then practically everything I believe about anything is false and it's the end of the world. ( Fodor, A Theory of Content and Other Essays, Cambridge, Mass, Bradford Book/MIT Press, 1990, p. 156; quoted in Stich, Deconstructing the Mind, New York, 1996, OUP, p. 169)


Anonymous said...

So when his believing caused him to speak what he did, was Fodor surprised by what he said? Did he think it a pearl of wisdom or sheer nonsense?

Or when the itching caused his arm to move was he startled by the sudden movement?

Sorry, simply because Fodor is mistaken in his beliefs it does not follow that the world will end. He is a rather excitable fellow, isn't he?

Let's say it looks like rain coming on. So I take an umbrella with me for that reason. Can 'it looks like rain coming on' really be considered the cause for taking the umbrella?

Or I go to New York in order to see a Broadway play. Surely 'in order to see a Broadway play' cannot be the cause of my going.

Or suppose I want to watch a rerun of Seinfeld at 7 pm. When 7 pm arrrives shall I sit patiently and wait for my want to cause my arm to move to the tv rmote and press the on button?

If reasons and wants and beliefs are the cause our actions, how can we know when we are acting voluntarily or moving involuntarily?

Hans said...

Fodor's itching caused him to scratch?

What happened to free will?

Anonymous said...

You know it seems a little bizarre to me that you and Lewis spend so much time trying to undermine the natualist’s position because he attributes reasoning to physical causes and then turn right around and start talking about reasons causing beliefs to be formed and thoughts causing people to behave in certain ways.
It appears that the only real difference between you and the naturalist you attack is the material or substance causing these effects. Otherwise you both pretty much share the same conceptual scheme as to how the mind works. You are both working from some very similar assumptions: the mind is some kind of ‘inner’ realm in which there are different kinds of mental objects that interact with each other. The naturalist thinks all this interaction is occurring in the brain. The supernaturalist that it is occurring in some kind of mind substance.

Victor Reppert said...

Is the universe at its core mental or non-mental, rational or non-rational. Is the mental a system byproduct and a parochial survival tool for certain critters on earth (and maybe on some other planets), or is it fundamental to all reality. I see nothing weird about looking at the human mind and trying to decide what evidence it provides as to which is true.

Anonymous said...

But if you mistakenly think the mind is literally some kind of thing, then you are going to end up with all sorts of conceptual confusions and insolvable philosophical problems.

Most materialists and theists are still operating under the flawed conceptual schemes of the mind propsed by Descartes and the empiricists.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Funny, as Fodor thinks content is epiphenomenal because of Twin Earth style concerns. As I discussed in the comments here (where, incidentally, I probably wrote my most extended description and defense of certain naturalistic theories of reference...man I probably spent ten hours writing in that thread).