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Reduction and explanation in the theory of content.

Methodological physicalism is the thesis that causal-explanatory notions appearing in true explanations must be physicalistically reducible. The thesis of methodological physicalism has figured prominently, if tacitly, in much recent work on folk psychology. The thesis serves as a premise in the arguments of both realists and eliminativists. In chapter 1 I discuss seven arguments which argue for the truth of methodological physicalism. A principal thesis of this work is that methodological physicalism is false. I argue in chapter 2 that propositional-attitude notions are irreducible but play a causal-explanatory role in true explanations of actions. My account of folk-psychological explanations of actions employs Garfinkel's (1981) notion of explanatory relativity. On Garfinkel's account, an explanandum consists of an event or state of affairs embedded in a contrast space of possible events or states of affairs. By being embedded in different contrast spaces one and the same event or state of affairs can be a constituent of distinct explananda. My account distinguishes between the explanation of an action and the explanation of the bodily movement which realizes that action, on the grounds that they embed the same bodily movement in distinct contrast spaces. One consequence of this view is that the causal-explanatory notions of explanations of actions, viz., propositional attitudes, are not reducible to the causal-explanatory notions of physical explanations of bodily movements. In chapter 3 I critically examine the teleological theory of Millikan, and in chapter 4 my concern is with Fodor's theory of asymmetric dependence. The upshot of my discussion in these chapters is that neither of these proposals is capable of achieving its reductionist aims. The topic of chapter 5 is a view which I dub 'the deflationary theory of meaning.' I argue that the deflationary theory is untenable in the face of Quinean arguments for the indeterminacy of translation. In the final chapter I reexamine the arguments for methodological physicalism cited in chapter 1. One result to emerge from this discussion is the admission that folk-psychological generalizations cannot be explained in terms of more basic physicalistic generalizations.
Date January 1992
CreatorsHershfield, Jeffrey Allan.
ContributorsTolliver, Joseph T., Cummins, Robert C., Harnish, Robert M.
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
Source SetsUniversity of Arizona
Detected LanguageEnglish
Typetext, Dissertation-Reproduction (electronic)
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.

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