Saving Belief: A Critique of Physicalism
Baker (Lynne Rudder)
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Cover Blurb

  1. This stimulating book critically examines a wide range of physicalistic conceptions of mind in the works of Jerry A. Fodor, Stephen P. Stich, Paul M. Churchland, Daniel C. Dennett, and others. Part I argues that intentional concepts cannot be reduced to nonintentional (and nonsemantic) concepts; Part II argues that intentional concepts are nevertheless indispensable to our cognitive enterprises and thus need no foundation in physicalism.
  2. As a sustained challenge to the prevailing interpretation of cognitive science, this timely book fills a large gap in the philosophical literature. It is sure to spark controversy, yet its clarity makes it attractive as a text in upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses in philosophy of mind and cognitive science. Saving Belief should be read by philosophers, psychologists, and others interested in the philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, and cognitive science.
  3. ”This book is a comprehensive attack on several of the views that have been most influential in the philosophy of psychology during the last two decades. Professor Baker argues that mentalistic notions should not be eliminated, and need not be explained in terms of other notions, in 'cognitive science.' The book is interesting and shows an honest concern for clear argumentation. It deserves a wide readership."
    —Tyler Burge, University of California at Los Angeles
  4. "This book is a provocative and relentlessly argued treatment of a deep and important topic: the fate of intentionality. Baker's arguments oblige those who wish to defend the current conception of cognitive science to rethink the discipline. She has put the ball squarely in the physicalists' court.... Despite the technical character of the topic, the book is wonderfully readable."
    —John Heil, Davidson College
  5. Lynne Rudder Baker is Professor of Philosophy at Middlebury College.

Author’s Preface (Full Text)
  1. This book is a critical examination of the dominant philosophical interpretation of cognitive science: physicalism. A physicalist holds either that nonintentional and nonsemantic sufficient conditions can be specified for intentional states like belief, desire, and intention, or that there really are no such states identified by content. The first approach is reductive; the second, eliminative.
  2. Part I examines reductive positions, formulated by Jerry A. Fodor and others, that aim to provide nonintentional sufficient conditions for belief. With the aid of a series of thought experiments1, I shall show (in Chapters Two, Three, and Four) the inadequacy of each such position, and then diagnose (in Chapter Five) the reason for the failure: Physicalists place incompatible constraints — one semantic and the other physical — on the concept of intentional content. Thus, I argue, no physicalistically acceptable notion of the content of a belief or other attitude will be forthcoming.
  3. Part II examines eliminative positions, formulated by Stephen P. Stich, Paul M. Churchland, Patricia S. Churchland, Daniel C. Dennett, and others, that deny the existence of beliefs or other attitudes identified by content. In Chapter Six, I argue that the common-sense conception that invokes belief is not simply a theory subject to empirical disconfirmation, and in Chapter Seven, I argue that wholesale denial of the common-sense conception is self-defeating in various ways. After taking up Dennett's instrumentalistic construal of belief in Chapter Eight, I draw some modest conclusions in Chapter Nine. Prominent among these, I suggest that we may endorse naturalism without physicalism.
  4. The upshot is that common-sense mentalistic and intentional notions need no foundation in physicalism. Their legitimacy is assured, not by any justification in nonintentional terms, but by their indispensable contribution to our cognitive enterprises.
  5. This book is full of arguments, many of which raise hotly contested issues. Recognizing and even enjoying the controversial nature of the arguments, I have tried to make the book technically competent on the one hand, and lively and fun to read on the other. My hope is that many of those who profoundly disagree with my conclusions will find the argument clear enough and fair enough to be worth engaging seriously, if only to sharpen their own views.

      Preface – ix
      Acknowledgments – xi
    1. Common Sense and Physicalism – 3
      • Physicalism – 4
      • Ways to Reduce – 7
      • An Overview – 11
      • Common Sense and Content – 15
    1. Belief in Cognitive Science – 23
      • Form and Content – 23
      • An Anti-Cartesian Meditation – 28
      • What If? – 34
      • Consequences for Formality – 37
    2. Mind and the Machine Analogy – 43
      • The Machine Analogy – 43
      • On Being Narrow: A Dilemma – 51
      • First Horn: An Inconsistent Triad – 55
      • Second Horn: Beliefs Are Not Functional States – 60
    3. Unspeakable Thoughts – 63
      • Phenomenological Accessibility – 63
      • Complications – 68
      • Observation Terms in Mentalese – 72
      • More on Mentalese – 77
    4. The Elusiveness of Content – 85
      • Speaking One's Mind – 88
      • Strategies and Assessments – 90
      • Application: Belief as Reliable Indication – 100
      • The Generality of the Results – 105
    1. How High the Stakes? – 113
      • Collapse of a "Modified Panglossian View" – 115
      • The Dead End of Theoretical Reduction – 118
      • Is the Common-Sense Conception an Empirical Theory? – 123
      • What's at Stake – 128
    2. The Threat of Cognitive Suicide2 – 134
      • Rational Acceptability at Risk – 135
      • Assertion at Risk – 138
      • Truth at Risk – 143
      • The Upshot – 147
    3. Instrumentalism: Back from the Brink? – 149
      • Intentional System Theory – 150
      • Belief, Rationality, and Design – 155
      • The Status of the Stances – 162
      • Ersatz Intentionality – 163
    4. Where We Are Now – 167
      • In Sum – 167
      • Prospects for a Science of the Mind – 169
      • Naturalism Without Physicalism? – 172
      • Ineliminable Intentionality – 174
      • Index – 175

In-Page Footnotes ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Saving Belief: A Critique of Physicalism")

Footnote 2: An edited extract of this Chapter appeared as Chapter 24 (“Cognitive Suicide”) of Philosophy of Mind – A Guide and Anthology (John Heil, Ed.), OUP 2004. See Link.


Princeton University Press, 1987

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