Intentionality, Minds and Behavior

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  • Intentionality, Minds and BehaviorAuthor(s): Robert BinkleySource: Nos, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Feb., 1969), pp. 49-60Published by: WileyStable URL: .Accessed: 14/06/2014 00:47

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  • Intentionality, Minds and Behavior


    In December of 1962, a symposium was held at Wayne State University on the philosophy of mind; the papers, comments and rejoinders of that affair are now published in Intentionality, Minds and Perception, ed. Hector-Neri Castanfeda (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1967). The papers are of high quality, and are close enough to each other in subject matter that a reader inter- ested in any one of the papers will very likely also be interested in some of the others, but, except for a pervading spirit of antago- nism to the simpler reductionisms, the book exhibits no deeper unity. It is a heap of bricks rather than a wall, and a critic who does not undertake to be a mason has no recourse but to examine them one by one.

    Roderick Chisholm's "On Some Psychological Concepts and the 'Logic' of Intentionality" is one of the most important essays in the book, and the controversy engendered by it has long since spilled over into the pages of Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (1963 and 1964) and elsewhere. It is mainly an attempt to define in logical terms a concept of intentionality that will per- mit us to say that all and only psychological concepts are inten- tional. Intensionality, i.e., nonextensionality, will clearly not serve, for such concepts as obligation and necessity are intensional with- out being psychological. (It is unfortunate that one of the numerous misprints in this book has darkened Chisholm's statement of this point by putting an "intentional" in place of an "intensional" in the midst of it: (page 11, line 11). Chisholm's concern is with the in- tentionality of modal prefixes, or sentence forming operators on sentences such as "It is true that . . ." and "Jones believes that . . .", and he here seeks a criterion based on the logical properties of the


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    combination of modal prefixes and quantifiers. Restricting his at- tention to the simple case in which there is a single prefix and a single quantifier, the scope of each reaching to the end of the sentence, Chisholm has four forms to consider for any modal prefix M.

    (1) M(x)Fx universal, in sensu composito (UC)

    (2) (x) MFx universal, in sewnu diviso (UD)

    (3) M( 3 x)Fx existential, in sensu composito (EC)

    (4) ( 3 x) MFx existential, in sensu diviso (ED)

    The symbolic representation is mine; the Latin tags and the labels are Chisholm's.

    It is possible to catalogue the entailment relations between these four forms for any modal prefix. Chisholm presents these in matrix tables, but I shall simply list the fundamental entailments for the prefix, the rest being assumed to follow by the transitivity of the entailment relation. Assuming, as Chishohm always does, that the universe is not empty, we will have the following entail- ment for every prefix, as an instance of a truth of the logic of quantifiers:

    (a) (x)MFX - (3 x)MFx

    The pattern of entailments consisting simply of this one may be called the minimum pattern. Robert Sleigh, in his comments, sug- gests that the minimum pattern is characteristic of "S believes that . . .", but fails to win Chisholm's assent. In his original paper, Chisholm had added the following to the minimum pattern to form the pattern for belief:

    (b) M(x)Fx > (3 x)MFx

    (c) ( 3 x)MFx > M( 3 x)Fx In his rejoinder to Sleigh, he drops (b) while retaining (c). In each case he finds that every prefix conforming to the belief pattern is psychological.

    Sleigh urges the dropping of (b) and (c) from the pattern for belief on the grounds that they rest on an inappropriate assump- tion about the rationality of believers. Chisholm admits at once to the inappropriateness of such an assumption; in fact, in another part of his essay he has considered criteria of intentionality that

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    rest directly upon the possibility that believers may have contra- dictory beliefs. But he takes this objection to apply only to (b), not to (c). On this point, I think, Chisholm is mistaken.

    Chisholm defends (c) by appealing (p.17) to the thesis that "to believe with respect to anything x that x has a certain property F is, in part to least, to believe that there exists an x such that x has that property F." This is a thesis which, he suggests, only the likes of Meinong would reject. But I think it can be seen that this thesis is simply a rationality assumption in disguised form.

    To see this, consider first how the rationality assumption figures in (b). If we try to spell out the thinking that would justify (b), it would presumably go something like this. Chisholm says, (p.18), that he sees no need to shape his theory to allow for the possibility of a man who believes the universe to be empty, or who "is able to refer to everything without in fact being able to refer to anything." This means, presumably, that the theory assumes that a man who believes that every thing is F, and thereby "refers to everything", will also be able to refer to something; i.e., there will be some things to which he can refer. Each of these things will have to be believed by the rational subject to be F; otherwise he will be in violation of the logical law of universal instantiation. But if he believes an item to be F, then this will warrant our saying that there is something that he believes to be F, by existential generalization. That is, we justify (b) by an appeal to the subject's use of one logical law followed by our own use of another. But to trust the subject to obey a logical law is to make a rationality assumption.

    An entirely similar justification for (c) can be constructed. If there is something believed by the subject to be F, then by existential instantiation it follows that there must be an x such that it would be true to say that he believes that x is F. But the rational subject will from this come by existential generalization to believe that there is something which is F. Here, our use of existential in- stantiation is to be followed by the subject's use of existential gen- eralization, and again we are relying on the subject to abide by a logical law.

    To be sure, the step which I have described as the subject's use of existential generalization might also be described as a case of Chisholm's thesis, cited above, about belief. But it seems to me that this just goes to show that Chisholm's thesis is really a dis- guised assumption about the subject's mastery of certain elementary

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    principles of logic. And there is room for a deeper observation here. Chisholm's anti-Meinong thesis, and the use he makes of it, shows up very clearly the two aspects of the customary use of the existen- tial quantifier, existence and generality. It is plausible to say, with Chisholm and against Meinong, that in order for us to say that a man believes with respect to a thing x that it has the property F, the thing must really exist and he must believe that it does. Nobody, on this view, not even the most innocent child, has any beliefs at all with respect to Santa Claus because there is no such person; Santa Claus beliefs fail to find a target, and must be analysed in some more round about away. Similarly, an over-sceptical play- goer who believes that Richard III is nothing more than a fictional character in Shakespeare's play, could not be said to have any beliefs at all with respect to Richard III; there is a target there, but it is not being aimed at. But this contrast between the really existent and the in some way fictional is not the same as the con- trast between the singular and the general, and believing that a thing is real is not the same as believing that something has what- ever property one has ascribed to it. The former is, if we reject Meinong, involved in our believing anything at all with respect to the thing; the latter is connected to a singular belief with respect to the thing by a logical law, a law which irrational people may flout.

    Once the rationality assumption is abandoned, it is quite easy to think up counter-examples to (c). For example, it is not obvi- ously inconceivable that a subject should acquire his logical con- cepts in the order in which they are usually presented in logic books, and so at some point be at the stage at which he has the conceptual equipment for singular beliefs, but not that required for general beliefs. Such a subject might believe that his mother is at home, and so justify us in saying that there is someone whom he believes to be at home; but, lacking the concept of existential quantification, he would be incapable of believing that there is someone at home. And then again, even if he had the concepts, he might still fail, inconsistently, to form the general belief.

    Chisholm often talks as if singular reference in beliefs could always be accounted for by Russellian definite description. This might seem to offer a way out. Certainly if this were so, singular beliefs would be logically more complex than the corresponding general beliefs, and it would appear that my counter-example to (c) based on a subject with incomplete conceptual equipment

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    would not arise. But even so, a rationality assumption would enter into (c). For now when we say that there is something which the subject believes to be F, we imply that there is some property G such that he believes that the G is F. But how are we to move from this to the conclusion that the subject believes that there is something which is F? Only, I think, by exploiting the logical truth that "There is something that is F" is implied by "The G is F." But to make use of this inside the scope of a belief operator is clearly to assume some degree of rationality in the believer. Without that, the man who believes that the G is F without believing that something is F is not impossible; only inconsistent.

    I conclude from all this that the pattern for belief in general, as contrasted with rational belief, is the minimum one containing only the entailment (a). And since, as Chisholm has pointed out, elsewhere, this pattern is shared by the nonpsychological prefix "it is morally indifferent whether . . . ," the attempt along these lines to make the intentional coincide with the psychological must be counted a failure. But there are many moves still to be made in this area, and perhaps a more general moral-one suggested by Sleigh-should be drawn. For from all this it seems clear that no treatment of the logic of the four forms considered by Chisholm can be finally satisfactory until it is imbedded in a larger theory which takes account as well of singular beliefs, and the connected problems of transparency, opacity, identity, and of singular refer- ence in general.

    While Chisholm's paper remains wholly on the plane of logic, all the rest are concerned in one way or another with the causal connexion, or lack of it, between mental phenomena and external events. This is notably the case with William Alston's "Wants, Ac- tions, and Causal Explanations", which deals with the question whether actions can be causally explained in terms of wants and beliefs. This is a question that has been widely discussed in recent years, both from the point of view of the analysis of ordinary con- cepts and from the point of view of a possible limitation on the development of scientific psychology. Alston considers mainly the second issue, and endeavours to show that there is no reason in principle why a psychological theory should not be developed in which actions are causally explained by the agent's beliefs and wants. He considers in particular possible theories along the lines of a model of human action put forward by the psychologist Tol- man. This model, a dressing up in technical terminology of the

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    idea that for various reasons people have desires and will take ad- vantage of opportunities to satisfy them, is given by a diagram in which we see independent variables such as heredity, drive condi- tions and stimulus situation determine, (an arrow is drawn in the diagram), a complex structure of intervening variables such as t-he need system, the belief-value matrix and the immediate behavior space, which in turn finally determines the dependent variable, behavior or action. Fortunately, it is not Alston's purpose to defend this as a psychological theory. (Nor was it Tolman's). His point is the weaker one that it is conceivable that some theory along these lines might be developed, and the question is whether the explanations stemming from such a theory could properly be called causal explanations of human action.

    But in considering this question, we must bear in mind the obstacles that would need to be overcome in constructing such a theory. They are formidable, though not, Alston claims, insuperable in principle. Chief among them, at least from the conceptual point of view, is the need to divide up the agent's bel...


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