In this post, I reply to my previous post on a new motivation for positing desire-like imagination. The right response to the argument sketched there, I now think, is a combination of `Who cares?’ and `What are you talking about?’. But there’s a functionalist explanation behind the indifferent shrug and the incredulous stare.
Suppose we are all good functionalists, as we should be. Then a mental state (type) is defined by the inputs and outputs that its tokens typically have. For example, a typical belief connects to desires, affective response system, behavior-generating system, and such. To answer the question ‘what is a belief’, there is nothing over and above saying what inputs and outputs that its tokens typically have. The nature of a mental state is just its functions.
In that sense, contrary to what I claim in the previous post, Currie and Doggett and Egan have indeed explained what desire-like imagination is, in virtue of the connections that they posit. In particular, Doggett and Egan say that desire-like imagination is connected to (belief-like) imagination, affective response system, and behavior-generating system. On the other hand, Currie says that desire-like imagination is connected to imagination and affective response system, but not behavior-generating system (see Currie (2002)). The connections that they posit are their respective answers to the question `what is the nature of desire-like imagination.’ Hence, talking about desire-like imagination’s direction of fit may not add to the characterizations given, and is at any rate unnecessary. Thus the indifferent shrug.
More importantly, the functionalist framework shows that a mental state (type) does not exist in a vacuum; it exists in connection with other mental states and cognitive systems. To explain a phenomenon, such as affective response to fiction or immersion in pretense, these philosophers need to posit both desire-like imagination and the appropriate connections. Hence, even if the direction-of-fit metaphor is right and the analogies go through, as argued in my previous post, all we have done is posit a mental state. Without the appropriate connections, it exists only in a vacuum and cannot do any explanatory work. Furthermore, it is far from clear how the direction-of-fit metaphor and the analogies can help us with positing desire-like imagination’s connections in the functionalist framework of mind. So there is the feeling, as Sara commented, of “what phenomenon are you talking about” because positing a mental state in a vacuum does not help explaining the phenomena in which we are ultimately interested. Thus the incredulous stare.