Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Transcendental Foundations of our Mental Life

We have trancendental reasons for supposing that our intentionality, normativity, purposiveness, and subjectivity is real. If our thought are not about anything determinate, then the thoughts of scientists are not about anything determinate, and the thoughts of atheistic philosophers are not about anything determinate. If there is no mental causation; if mental states do not cause other mental states, then scientists can't say that they believe what they believe on the basis of the scientific evidence. If there is no mental causation, then you can't say that you reject the existence of God because of the evil in the world.

I love the Fodor quote: 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)

1 comment:

Teague Tubach said...

First of all, that quote is awesome.

I'm worried that what precedes it is unconvincing. I mean, lets say we do find a scientist that doubts mental causation. What she probably believes is that there is a neurological explanation for what we ordinarily call mental. Right? The brain is doing the causing, and there is some necessary link between the physical activity in the brain and the "mental" activity that we are conscious of.

Since the brain is doing the causing, there surely is some effect though. She thinks that she is thinking. I mean, otherwise she'd be incoherent (its impossible, for instance, to deny your own existence, because who then is doing the denying?)

So I'm confused about why she can't deny God because of evil, or claim that science is the basis for what she tends to believe. Does the brain causing things really change much? Where is the link?