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Propositional Attitudes


									Summer 2011
Monday, 07/25
                 Recap on Dreyfus
• Presents a phenomenological argument against the idea that
  intelligence consists in manipulating symbols according to
  formal/syntactic rules (the PSS hypothesis).

                                      • Tries to describe the
                                        experience of becoming an
                                        expert in “slow motion”:
                                        Novice  Advanced Beginner
                                         Competent  Proficient 
                                      • Claims that paying close
                                        attention to this progression
                                        reveals that being an expert is
                                        not a matter of following
                                        “internalized” rules at all.
                                      • It is, in fact the other way
                                        around: becoming an expert is
                                        getting away from rule
                                        following altogether.
   Knowing How vs. Knowing That

• Knowing-that = Propositional Knowledge.
  Knowing some set of facts, e.g. the fact that
  Paris is in France or the fact that one should
  do such-and-such in a certain situation.
• Knowledge-how = “Procedural knowledge”,
  having an ability to do something, e.g. to drive
  a car, ride a bike, ski, weld metal, etc.
          Kinds of Knowledge
• Knowledge-that is fundamental. Many types
  of knowledge, e.g. knowledge-
  where/when/who/what, may be understood
  in terms of knowledge-that.
• But some kinds of knowledge, e.g. knowledge
  by acquaintance (many languages have special
  words for this!), may not be understood in this
• It’s an open, controversial question in
  philosophy how knowledge-how relates to
           Propositional Attitudes
•   I think that Paris is pretty.
•   You hope that Paris is pretty.
•   Jon believes that Paris is pretty.
•   Paul says that Paris is pretty.
•   Laura and Jim wish that Paris is pretty.
•   These people expect that Paris is pretty.
    The bold terms seem to refer to types of mental states.
    The underlined clauses seem to refer to propositions.
    A PROPOSITIONAL ATTITUDE is a mental state that relates
    someone (e.g. a person) to a proposition. Propositions
    are the intentional objects of propositional attitudes.
• Mind/Language Independent. Two people can be
  related to the same proposition, even if they
  don’t share a language.
• Are Abstract. You can’t encounter or them or
  perceive them through the senses.
• Can be true/false. The conditions in which a
  proposition would be true/false are essential to
  the proposition.
• Often used in common sense, psychological
  explanation, e.g. I believe the same thing that she
  does, she said what I wanted to say, we both
  expect the same thing to happen.

• We can think of propositional attitudes
  asmental states that are about propositions,
  or that involve “grasping” them.
• Believing, hoping, desiring, expecting (and so
  on), are all different ways of entertaining (or
  grasping) propositions.
          Propositional Attitudes
Tricky questions arise, among them:
    1. What exactly are the mental states that relate us to
    propositions? What is a thought, a belief, a hope, a
    2. How does a mental state, of whatever stripe,
    manages to relate a person to a proposition? What is
    it to “grasp” a proposition?
    3. What explains the difference between the various
    ways of entertaining propositions (e.g. believing,
    hoping, desiring)?
    4. Why is it that entertaining some propositions, in
    certain ways, leads us to systematically (rationally,
    intelligibly) entertain certain others, in certain
    appropriate ways? What’s the scientific explanation
    of this fact?
   Representational Theory of Mind
   A framework for understanding the
   propositional attitudes, defined by these
1. Propositional attitudes pick out
   computational relations to internal
2. Mental processes are causal processes that
   involve transitions between internal
“To a first approximation, to
think “it’s going to rain; so I’ll
go indoors” is to have a
tokening of a mental
representation that means
I’ll go indoors caused, in a
certain way, by a tokening of
a mental representation that
means, it’s going to rain.”
• “Folk Psychology”, or our
  common sense theory of the
  mind is largely correct.
• Thoughts, beliefs, desires
  (and so on) are real inner-
• These states are built out of
  symbols (e.g. brain states
  and processes) that causally
  interact with other mental
• Science will validate our
  common sense
  understanding of ourselves
  by identifying inner states
  whose meanings and
  structures closely match the
  contents and structures of
  daily ascriptions of
  propositional attitudes (with
  some room for
 • There are no inner states that
   closely match our talk of
   propositional attitudes, i.e.
   there are no beliefs, hopes,
   desires, and so on.
 • As science progresses, we will
   drop talk of such entities and
   adopt an entirely new,
   scientific way of talking about
   our psychology.
   “We need an entirely new
   kinematics and dynamics with
   which to comprehend human
   cognitive activity. One drawn,
   perhaps, from computational
   neuroscience and
   connectionist AI. Folk
   psychology could then be put
   aside in favor of this
   descriptively more accurate
   and explanatorily more
   powerful portrayal of the
   reality within.”
  •   Tries to steer a middle
      course between Fodor and
  •   Like Churchland, anticipates
      no close match between the
      folk and scientific
      understanding of ourselves.
  •   But holds that the goodness
      of the common sense
      understanding is established
      independently of particular
      facts about implementation.
  •   Common-sense
      psychology is a useful
      tool for making sense of
      the mental lives and daily
      behavior of rational
  •   It is a special case of the
      “design stance” that we
      take towards artifacts, a
      way of understanding
      things in reference to
      what they’re supposed to
  •   Our common sense
      psychology is “a
      rationalistic (i.e.
      calculus of interpretation
      and prediction—an
      idealizing, abstract,
      interpretation method
      that has evolved because
      it works and that works
      because we have
  •   Dennett’s view is complex. He does
      not claim that there are no beliefs.
      Instead, folk-psychology works
      because there exist real, objective
      patterns in human and animal
      behavior that are fully observer
  •   Mental states are real in the same
      sense as “abstracta” such as
      centers of gravity or the equator
      are real.
  •   We’ll talk a lot more about each of
      these three views in the next three

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