Monday, June 2, 2008

Philosophers' Carnival

The new Philosophers' Carnival is now up at Big Ideas.

In two weeks, we'll be hosting the next Carnival (or, as I prefer, Karneval) right here. Submissions on any philosophical topic are of course welcome (though I'll be trolling around looking for unsubmitted entries as well), but particular attention will be given to anything on action theory (including free will and moral psychology) and/or phenomenology.

And if someone can put up a post clearly explaining why someone might take the content of a mental state to be entirely linguistic and how this view can be squared with our experience, I'll be particularly thrilled.


  1. W/r/t your request, I'm not sure what exactly you mean by the idea that "the content of a mental state" being "entirely linguistic." For example, I generally follow McDowell concerning what he calls the "unboundedness of the conceptual", but I'm not sure that's what you're talking about (that's certainly not how I'd put it anyway). Can you elaborate?

    You run a most excellent blog, btw.

  2. Are you actually going to call it a karneval? That would be spiffy.

    Regarding linguistics, I can only prove the opposite. I would guess that this would in fact be opposite to your request?

  3. Hi Duck,
    Thanks. Your blog is quite spiffy as well. Sorry it took me so long to answer. Here's what I'm thinking of: There is a commonly held view that mental states are propositional states. That is: that what goes into a state's being a mental state, and thus what makes it capable of playing a role in any rational explanation of an agent's behavior, is its propositional content. This seems odd to me; for one, I'm not sure how to square this with the apparent fact that animals do have mental states. And they do seem to think--or, at least, to adjust their behavior to their circumstances, sometimes in surprisingly novel (and, thus, seemingly non-instinctive) ways. On another point, the mental/propositional equation leads to oddities like the claim that desires are evaluative states.

    Alrenous: ha! You'll just have to wait and see what I call it. But I'm very fond of spiffy things. If you want to argue the opposite: go for it!

  4. If a mental state is just a propositional state then how do we talk about doing things like asserting, promising or so forth. For instance I can promise myself to lose weight and it seems hard to say that this act's role in my behavior is purely it's propositional content. Yet it seems purely a mental act. I suppose one could distinguish mental processes from mental states but that seems to be giving away the store.

    Beyond that it seems hard to say that my being in pain isn't a mental state but it also seems hard to make that purely propositional. Put an other way my asserting or believing I'm in pain and being in pain seem to be different mental states.

  5. Yeah, I think it's hard to assert that pain is a propositional state. But if pain is to have a role in reasoning, one might think, then it must do so by means of some proposition, one that demonstratively points to it. Thus, for example, if I scream out in pain, then perhaps the pain simply caused me to scream and the scream was a reflex rather than an action. But if intentionally grab for the tylenol bottle, one might argue, this action is explained by propositions such as "it is desirable to get rid of this pain," and "tylenol will help the pain go away." That is: before they can play a role within the space of reasons, mental states must be such that they can be used in propositions; and thus their role in thought, as opposed to reflexive behavior, takes their essence as propositional in nature.