Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Mentalistic and Non-Mentalistic World-Views

The argument from reason begins by defining two world-view types: mentalistic world-views, according to which mental states are basic causes, and non-mentalistic world-views, according to which no mental states are basic causes. Christian theism is a world-view according to which basic causes are mental. If God chooses to create the world, there is no underlying non-mental explanation for this creation. God, it is supposed, creates the world because it is good to do so, and there is no underlying explanation in terms of blind causes. Let us take a different case, that of rocks falling down a mountain in an avalanche. When the rocks fall, they do not miss my head because they don’t think it would be nice to hit me, or hit me because they think I have it coming to me. Rather, the rocks blindly, with no regard to the interests of the people who may or may not be hit. On non-mentalistic world-views, the world is a bottom as blind as a bunch of rocks falling down the mountain. However, through the pressures of natural selection, perhaps we find things in the world that imitate that which we would ordinarily ascribe to a designer. If we hold to a non-mentalistic world-view, we might say that “the purpose of your eye is to see” but what we mean is that features of the eye were selected for because of their visual advantage. There is a mentalistic explanation on the surface, but dig deeper, and “mind” is analyzed out. By contrast, on a theistic world-view, even if the falling of the rocks in the avalanche was not specifically pre-ordained by God, at least the physical laws and physical objects are the product of intelligent design.



At 3/23/2008 11:14:00 AM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Dretske has a really nice example. Imagine someone yelling 'Fire' loudly enough to cause a glass to break. The content of the word 'Fire' is not what caused the glass to break. Just giving an account of the intrinsic physical properties of the representational vehicle is not sufficient to fix its content. Dretske wants the content of mental representations to have an impact in our brains (I discuss his naturalistic attempt to resolve this problem here).

I'm not sure his solution works, but I'm not sure it doesn't. It's the most noble attempt I've seen.

Interestingly, Bennett, in his penetrating and prescient behavioristic Linguistic Behavior (1976) actually has a very similar solution, but applies it to linguistic behavior rather than internal states. This makes me wonder how many wonderful ideas there are hidden in the behavioristic philosophers, how many resources did they come up with that can be applied even though their behaviorism was mistaken.

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