February 12, 2010
Ori Friedman and Alan Leslie, in their Cognition article “The conceptual underpinnings of pretense: Pretending is not ‘behaving-as-if’” (2007), argue against what they call behaviorist theories of pretense. As they characterize the debate, theories of pretense fall into the following two families:
Metarepresentational Theories: What is central to pretense is mentalistic: treating pretense as such through the possession and deployment of the concept PRETEND. (Leslie is the primary proponent of this view.)
Behaviorist Theories: What is central to pretense is behavioral: behaving “as-if” a scenario obtains–or rather, behaving in a way that would be appropriate if that scenario obtains. (On Friedman and Leslie’s characterization, pretty much everyone else–such as Perner, Lillard, Nichols and Stich, Harris, and Rakoczy–defends some kind of behaviorist theory.)
One central point in they make the paper is this: without making room for the concept PRETEND in their theories, behaviorists cannot adequately explain how children are able to recognize pretense as such. Here is how they put this central point on page 115:
But more importantly, the above makes clear what game the Behavioral theory perforce finds itself playing: namely, trying to get the child to think that someone is pretending without actually thinking pretend as such. If the Behavioral theory is to measure up to the phenomena of early human pretending, its success will depend on finding an exact conceptual paraphrase of PRETEND without using that concept. Moreover, the paraphrase must be strictly behavioral. … Propositional attitude concepts are the heart and soul of ‘theory of mind’ and utterly foreign to and rejected by behaviorism (Fodor, 1981; Ryle, 1949). ‘Pretend’ is just the name of a specific attitude.
In response, I have two small worries and a major one:
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December 3, 2009
There has been some very interesting discussions on how to teach an introductory early modern class. My own undergrad experience has been the standard “rationalist vs. empiricist” story line, and some of the improvements suggested sound very interesting. I’m especially pleased to learn that there is an anthology of women philosophers from that period, and wish I had read some of that in my limited exposure to history. Anyway, I thought these links would be of general interest.
[HT: The Ethical Werewolf]
September 23, 2009
I want to make a distinction between mental activities and mental states.
As I only have some vague ideas, it is easier to point to some examples. Some examples of mental activities: counterfactual reasoning, doxastic deliberation, planning, daydreaming, dreaming, playing a pretend game. Some examples of mental states: beliefs, desires, imaginings, emotions, perceptions. My sense is that there really is something different about the former cluster compared to the latter. Any suggestions on how that distinction might be made more precise?
September 18, 2009
In what is meant to be “a contribution of major importance to a unified theory of probability and utility” Jeffrey (The Logic of Decision) says about Bayesian decision theory that
Indeed, it is because logic and decision theory are woefully inadequate as descriptions that they are of interest as norms. (p.167)
Now, here’s a worry I presented yesterday in the seminar and that I’d like to present again, so that other people may consider it and that the ones that heard it can see why it’s worrisome. There are, at least, two questions the claim above prompts:
1) If theory T is woefully inadequate as a description of phenomena F, and yet it is meant to be a normative theory of F, couldn’t it be that it makes absurd demands about F?
2) If it is in virtue of theory T’s woeful descriptive inadequacy towards F that T is an interesting normative theory of F, wouldn’t it be the case that false descriptive theories turn out to be interesting normative theories?
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