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7.3c.3. Psychological Explanation (Psychological Explanation on PhilPapers)

Amundson, Ron & Smith, Laurence D. (1984). Clark Hull, Robert Cummins, and functional analysis. Philosophy of Science 51 (December):657-666.   (Cited by 2 | Google | More links)
Arkway, Angela (online). Folk psychological explanation, and causal laws.   (Google)
Arkway, Angela (2000). The simulation theory, the theory theory and folk psychological explanation. Philosophical Studies 98 (2):115-137.   (Cited by 2 | Google | More links)
Bechtel, William & Wright, Cory (2009). What is psychological explanation? In P. Calvo & J. Symons (eds.), Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Psychology. Routledge.   (Google)
Abstract: Due to the wide array of phenomena that are of interest to them, psychologists offer highly diverse and heterogeneous types of explanations. Initially, this suggests that the question "What is psychological explanation?" has no single answer. To provide appreciation of this diversity, we begin by noting some of the more common types of explanations that psychologists provide, with particular focus on classical examples of explanations advanced in three different areas of psychology: psychophysics, physiological psychology, and information-processing psychology. To analyze what is involved in these types of explanations, we consider the ways in which law-like representations of regularities and representations of mechanisms factor in psychological explanations. This consideration directs us to certain fundamental questions, e.g., "To what extent are laws necessary for psychological explanations?" and "What do psychologists have in mind when they appeal to mechanisms in explanation?" In answering such questions, it appears that laws do play important roles in psychological explanations, although most explanations in psychology appeal to accounts of mechanisms. Consequently, we provide a unifying account of what psychological explanation is.
Bernal, Sara (2005). Object lessons: Spelke principles and psychological explanation. Philosophical Psychology 18 (3):289-312.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: There is general agreement that from the first few months of life, our apprehension of physical objects accords, in some sense, with certain principles. In one philosopher's locution, we are 'perceptually sensitive' to physical principles describing the behavior of objects. But in what does this accordance or sensitivity consist? Are these principles explicitly represented or merely 'implemented'? And what sort of explanation do we accomplish in claiming that our object perception accords with these principles? My main goal here is to suggest answers to these questions. I argue that the object principles are not explicitly represented, first addressing some confusion in the debate about what that means. On the positive side, I conclude that the principles supply a competence account, at Marr's computational level, and that they function like natural constraints in vision. These are among their considerable explanatory benefits - benefits endowed by rules and principles in other cognitive domains as well. Characterizing the explanatory role of the object principles is my main project here, but in pursuing certain sub-goals I am led to other conclusions of interest in their own right. I address an argument that the object principles are explicitly represented which assumes that object perception is substantially thought-like. This provokes a jaunt off the main path which leads to interesting territory: the boundary between thought and perception. I argue that object apprehension is much closer to perception than to thought on the spectrum between the two
Bermudez, Jose Luis (2002). Rationality and psychological explanation without language. In Jose Luis Bermudez & Alan Millar (eds.), Reason and Nature. Clarendon.   (Cited by 1 | Google)
Block, Ned (1971). Are mechanistic and teleological explanations of behaviour incompatible? Philosophical Quarterly 21 (April):109-117.   (Cited by 1 | Google | More links)
Botterill, George (2009). Right and wrong reasons in folk-psychological explanation. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 17 (4):463 – 488.   (Google)
Abstract: Davidson argued that the fact we can have a reason for acting, and yet not be the reason why we act, requires explanation of action in terms of the agent's reasons to be causal. The present paper agrees with Dickenson ( Pacific Philosophical Quarterly , 2007) in taking this argument to be an inference to the best explanation. However, its target phenomenon is the very existence of a case in which an agent has more than one reason, but acts exclusively becaue of one reason. Folk psychology appears to allow for this phenomenon. However, appreciation of 'rationalization' as a form of contrastive explanation reveals the existence of the Davidsonian possibility to the problematic. Claims that 'I did it because of R 1 , not because of R 2 ' are entertained in folk psychology, and may be sincere or insincere. But as reports of conscious practical reasoning, even when sincere, they are not authoritative about the mechanism of motivation
Bridges, Jason (2006). Teleofunctionalism and psychological explanation. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 28 (September):359-372.   (Google | More links)
Brown, Robert (1965). The explanation of behaviour. Philosophy 40 (October):344-348.   (Google)
Cohen, Jonathan (ms). Williamson on knowledge and psychological explanation.   (Google)
Abstract: According to many philosophers, psychological explanation can legit- imately be given in terms of belief and desire, but not in terms of knowl- edge. To explain why someone does what they do (so the common wisdom holds) you can appeal to what they think or what they want, but not what they know. Timothy Williamson has recently argued against this view. Knowledge, Williamson insists, plays an essential role in ordinary psycho- logical explanation. Williamson’s argument works on two fronts. First, he argues against the claim that, unlike knowledge, belief is “composite” (rep- resentable as a conjunction of a narrow and a broad condition). Belief’s failure to be composite, Williamson thinks, undermines the usual motiva- tions for psychological explanation in terms of belief rather than knowl- edge. Unfortunately, we claim, the motivations Williamson argues against do not depend on the claim that belief is composite, so what he says leaves the case for a psychology of belief unscathed. Second, Williamson argues that knowledge can sometimes provide a better explanation of action than belief can. We argue that, in the cases considered, explanations that cite beliefs (but not knowledge) are no less successful than explanations that cite knowledge. Thus, we conclude that Williamson’s arguments fail both coming and going: they fail to undermine a psychology of belief, and they fail to motivate a psychology of knowledge
Cruz, Joe (online). Psychological explanation and noise in modeling. Comments on Whit Schonbein's "cognition and the power of continuous dynamical systems".   (Google)
Abstract: I find myself ambivalent with respect to the line of argument that Schonbein offers. I certainly want to acknowledge and emphasize at the outset that Schonbein’s discussion has brought to the fore a number of central, compelling and intriguing issues regarding the nature of the dynamical approach to cognition. Though there is much that seems right in this essay, perhaps my view is that the paper invites more questions than it answers. My remarks here then are in the spirit of scouting some of the surrounding terrain in order to see just what Schonbein’s claim is and what arguments or options may be open to the dynamicist
Cummins, Robert E. (1983). Analysis and subsumption in the behaviorism of Hull. Philosophy of Science 50 (March):96-111.   (Google | More links)
Cummins, Robert E. (2000). "How does it work" versus "what are the laws?": Two conceptions of psychological explanation. In F. Keil & Robert A. Wilson (eds.), Explanation and Cognition, 117-145. MIT Press.   (Cited by 19 | Google | More links)
Abstract: In the beginning, there was the DN (Deductive Nomological) model of explanation, articulated by Hempel and Oppenheim (1948). According to DN, scientific explanation is subsumption under natural law. Individual events are explained by deducing them from laws together with initial conditions (or boundary conditions), and laws are explained by deriving them from other more fundamental laws, as, for example, the simple pendulum law is derived from Newton's laws of motion
Cummins, Robert E. (1991). The role of mental meaning in psychological explanation. In Brian P. McLaughlin (ed.), Dretske and His Critics. Blackwell.   (Cited by 8 | Google)
Cummins, Robert E. (1982). The internal manual model of psychological explanation. Cognition and Brain Theory 5:257-68.   (Google)
Cummins, Robert E. (1983). The Nature of Psychological Explanation. MIT Press.   (Cited by 216 | Annotation | Google)
Davies, Martin (1986). Externality, psychological explanation, and narrow content. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 60:263-83.   (Cited by 4 | Annotation | Google)
Davies, Martin (1986). Individualism and supervenience: Externality, psychological explanation, and narrow content. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 263:263-283.   (Google)
Dilman, Ilham (2000). Psychology and human behaviour: Is there a limit to psychological explanation? Philosophy 75 (2):183-201.   (Google)
Ehring, Douglas E. (1985). Dispositions and functions: Cummins on functional analysis. Erkenntnis 23 (November):243-249.   (Cited by 2 | Google | More links)
Farrell, B. A. (1977). On the psychological explanation of visual perception. Synthese 35 (3).   (Google | More links)
Finn, D. R. (1968). Categories of psychological explanation. Mind 77 (October):550-555.   (Google | More links)
Finocchiaro, Maurice A. (1979). The psychological explanation of reasoning: Logical and methodological problems. Philosophy of the Social Sciences 9 (3).   (Google)
Fodor, Jerry A. (1968). Psychological Explanation: An Introduction To The Philosophy Of Psychology. Ny: Random House.   (Cited by 198 | Google)
Fodor, Jerry A. (1968). The appeal to tacit knowledge in psychological explanation. Journal of Philosophy 65 (October):627-40.   (Cited by 46 | Google | More links)
Fodor, Jerry A. (1991). You can fool some of the people all of the time, everything else being equal: Hedged laws and psychological explanation. Mind 100 (397):19-34.   (Cited by 47 | Annotation | Google | More links)
Glossop, Ronald J. (1970). Explaining human behavior. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 30 (March):444-449.   (Google | More links)
Gregory, Richard L. (1981). Mind In Science: A History Of Explanations In Psychology And Physics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.   (Cited by 63 | Google)
Gustafson, Donald F. (1964). Explanation in psychology. Mind 73 (April):280-281.   (Google | More links)
Hamlyn, D. W. (1951). Psychological explanation and the gestalt hypothesis. Mind 60 (240):506-520.   (Cited by 2 | Google | More links)
Hedman, Carl G. (1970). Gustafson on explanation in psychology. Mind 79 (April):272-274.   (Google | More links)
Heil, John (1986). Formalism and psychological explanation. Journal of Mind and Behavior 7:1-10.   (Annotation | Google)
Heil, John (1985). Rationality and psychological explanation. Inquiry 28 (1-4):359 – 371.   (Google)
Hershfield, Jeffrey (2001). Structural causation and psychological explanation. Journal of Mind and Behavior 22 (3):249-261.   (Google)
Hitchcock, Christopher & Knobe, Joshua (2009). Cause and Norm. Journal of Philosophy 106 (11):587-612.   (Google | More links)
Jackson, Frank (2000). Psychological explanation and implicit theory. Philosophical Explorations 3 (1):83-95.   (Cited by 2 | Google | More links)
Abstract: I offer an account of the relation between explanations of behaviour in terms of psychological states and explanations in terms of neural states that: makes it transparent how they can be true together; explains why explanations in terms of psychological states are characteristically of behaviour described in general and relational terms, and explains why certain sorts of neurological investigations undermine psychological explanations of behaviour, while others leave them intact. In the course of the argument, I offer an account of implicit theories
Jackson, Julian M. (1995). Why mental explanations are physical explanations. South African Journal of Philosophy 14 (3):109-123.   (Google)
Joseph, H. W. B. (1910). The psychological explanation of the development of the perception of external objects (I.). Mind 19 (75):305-321.   (Google | More links)
Joseph, H. W. B. (1910). The psychological explanation of the development of the perception of external objects. Mind 19 (76):457-469.   (Google | More links)
Joseph, H. W. B. (1911). The psychological explanation of the development of the perception of external objects (III.). (Reply to prof. Stout.). Mind 20 (78):161-180.   (Google | More links)
Kim, Jaegwon (1989). Mechanism, purpose, and explanatory exclusion. Philosophical Perspectives 3:77-108.   (Cited by 84 | Annotation | Google | More links)
Klee, Robert (1992). Anomalous monism, ceteris paribus, and psychological explanation. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 43 (3):389-403.   (Cited by 1 | Annotation | Google | More links)
Abstract: Davidson has argued that there can be no laws linking psychological states with physical states. I stress that this argument depends crucially on there being no purely psychological laws. All of this has to do with the holism and indeterminacy of the psychological domain. I criticize this claim by showing how Davidson misconstrues the role of ceteris paribus clauses in psychological explanation. Using a model of how ceteris paribus clauses operate derived from Lakatos, I argue that if Davidson is correct, then there can be no purely physical laws either. This is illustrated with a case from immunology involving interferons. Since there clearly are physical laws, Davidson cannot be correct
Knight, D. (1997). A poetics of psychological explanation. Metaphilosophy 28 (1-2):63-80.   (Google | More links)
Levine, Joseph (1987). The nature of psychological explanation by Robert Cummins: A critical notice. Philosophical Review 96 (2):249-274.   (Google | More links)
Lockie, Robert (2004). Knowledge, provenance and psychological explanation. Philosophy 79 (3):421-433.   (Google)
Abstract: Analytic theories of knowledge have traditionally maintained that the provenance of a true belief is critically important to deciding whether it is knowledge. However, a comparably widespread view is that it is our beliefs alone, regardless of their (potentially dubious) provenance which feature in psychological explanation, including the explanation of action: thus, that knowledge itself and as such is irrelevant in psychological explanation. The paper gives initial reasons why the ‘beliefs alone’ view of explanation should be resisted—arguments deriving ultimately from the Meno indicate that the provenance of a true belief may be relevant to the explanation of action. However, closer scrutiny of these arguments shows that they are incapable of according provenance anything like as central a role in action explanation as provenance has traditionally been given in the theory of knowledge. A consideration of the history of science suggests anyway that all knowledge has a compromised provenance if one looks back any significant distance. It is concluded that the importance of the provenance of our beliefs is something that has been seriously over-emphasised in epistemology
Macdonald, Cynthia (1995). Anti-individualism and psychological explanation. In C. Macdonald (ed.), Philosophy of Psychology: Debates on Psychological Explanation. Cambridge: Blackwell.   (Google)
Macdonald, C. (ed.) (1995). Connectionism: Debates on Psychological Explanation. Blackwell.   (Cited by 36 | Google)
Macklin, Ruth (1969). Explanation and action: Recent issues and controversies. Synthese 20 (October):388-415.   (Cited by 1 | Google | More links)
Macdonald, Cynthia (ed.) (1995). Philosophy of Psychology: Debates on Psychological Explanation. Cambridge: Blackwell.   (Cited by 20 | Google)
Machery, Eduoard & Livengood, J. (2007). The folk probably don't think what you think they think: Experiments on causation by absence. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 31 (1):107-127.   (Google)
Abstract: Folk theories—untutored people’s (often implicit) theories about various features of the world—have been fashionable objects of inquiry in psychology for almost two decades now (e.g., Hirschfeld and Gelman 1994), and more recently they have been of interest in experimental philosophy (Nichols 2004). Folk theories of psy- chology, physics, biology, and ethics have all come under investigation. Folk meta- physics, however, has not been as extensively studied. That so little is known about folk metaphysics is unfortunate for (at least) two reasons. First, folk metaphysics is almost certainly implicit, and it is likely to be our default way of thinking about metaphysical problems. Moreover, one’s metaphysical commitments can have pro- found consequences—in scientific, religious, and ethical contexts, for example. Thus, folk metaphysics ought to be dragged out into the open and exposed to criticism. As Peirce eloquently remarked (1994, 1.129; see also 1994, 7.579)
Macdonald, Cynthia (2006). 'The Metaphysics of Mental Causation'. The Journal of Philosophy 103 (11):539-576.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: A debate has been raging in the philosophy of mind for at least the past two decades. It concerns whether the mental can make a causal difference to the world. Suppose that I am reading the newspaper and it is getting dark. I switch on the light, and continue with my reading. One explanation of why my switching on of the light occurred is that a desiring with a particular content (that I continue reading), a noticing with a particular content (that it is getting dark), and a believing with a particular content (that by switching on the light I could continue reading) occurred in me, and these events caused my switching on of the light. This explanation works by citing the intentional contents of mental phenomena as causes of that action. It is because the intentional causes have the contents that they do, and because those contents play a causal role in bringing about my action, that my action is causally explained
Magnus, P. D. & Cohen, Jonathan (2003). Williamson on knowledge and psychological explanation. Philosophical Studies 116 (1).   (Google)
Abstract:   According to many philosophers, psychological explanation canlegitimately be given in terms of belief and desire, but not in termsof knowledge. To explain why someone does what they do (so the common wisdom holds) you can appeal to what they think or what they want, but not what they know. Timothy Williamson has recently argued against this view. Knowledge, Williamson insists, plays an essential role in ordinary psychological explanation.Williamson's argument works on two fronts.First, he argues against the claim that, unlike knowledge, belief is``composite'' (representable as a conjunction of a narrow and a broadcondition). Belief's failure to be composite, Williamson thinks, undermines the usual motivations for psychological explanation in terms of belief rather than knowledge.Unfortunately, we claim, the motivations Williamson argues against donot depend on the claim that belief is composite, so what he saysleaves the case for a psychology of belief unscathed.Second, Williamson argues that knowledge can sometimes provide abetter explanation of action than belief can.We argue that, in the cases considered, explanations that cite beliefs(but not knowledge) are no less successful than explanations that citeknowledge. Thus, we conclude that Williamson's arguments fail both coming andgoing: they fail to undermine a psychology of belief, and they fail tomotivate a psychology of knowledge
Malcolm, Norman (1967). Explaining behavior. Philosophical Review 76 (January):97-104.   (Cited by 1 | Google | More links)
Martin, Michael (1971). Neurophysiological reduction and psychological explanation. Philosophy of the Social Sciences 1 (1).   (Google)
Margolis, Joseph (1980). The trouble with homunculus theories. Philosophy of Science 47 (June):244-259.   (Cited by 1 | Google | More links)
McClamrock, Ron (1993). Functional analysis and etiology. Erkenntnis 38 (2):249-260.   (Cited by 3 | Google | More links)
Abstract:   Cummins (1982) argues that etiological considerations are not onlyinsufficient butirrelevant for the determination offunction. I argue that his claim of irrelevance rests on a misrepresentation of the use of functions in evolutionary explanations. I go on to suggest how accepting anetiological constraint on functional analysis might help resolve some problems involving the use of functional explanations
McCauley, Robert N. (1987). The role of cognitive explanations in psychology. Behaviorism 15:27-40.   (Google)
Mele, Alfred R. (1992). Akrasia, self-control, and second-order desires. Noûs 26 (3):281-302.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: Pristine belief/desire psychology has its limitations. Recognizing this, some have attempted to fill various gaps by adding more of the same, but at higher levels. Thus, for example, second-order desires have been imported into a more stream- lined view to explicate such important notions as freedom of the will, personhood, and valuing. I believe that we need to branch out as well as up, augmenting a familiar 'philosophical psychology' with psychological items that are irreducible to beliefs and desires (for support, see Mele 1987 and 1992). That theme will be left largely in the background here, however. The issue to be explored is a narrower one: the place of higher-order desires in a proper conception of continent and incontinent behavior. My guiding question is whether an action's counting as continent or incontinent depends upon the agent's having at the time a pertinent higher-order desire. The answer that I shall defend is, in a word, 'No.'
Mele, Alfred R. (1998). Noninstrumental rationalizing. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 79 (3):236–250.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: A central notion in Donald Davidson's philosophy of mind and action is "rationalization," a species of causal explanation designed in part to reveal the point or purpose of the explananda. An analogue of this notion - noninstrumental rationalization - merits serious attention. I develop an account of this species of rationalization and display its utility in explaining the production of certain desires and of motivationally biased beliefs.
Millikan, Ruth G. (1993). Explanation. In Biopsychology in Mental Causation. Clarendon Press.   (Google)
Millikan, Ruth G. (1993). Explanation in biopsychology. In John Heil & Alfred R. Mele (eds.), Mental Causation. Oxford University Press.   (Cited by 13 | Google)
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Moser, Paul K. (1994). Naturalism and psychological explanation. Philosophical Psychology 7 (1):63-84.   (Google)
Abstract: This article explores the possibility of naturalized theory of action. It distinguishes ontological naturalism from conceptual naturalism, and asks whether a defensible theory of action can be either ontologically or conceptually naturalistic. The distinction between conditions for an ontology and conditions for a concept receives support from Donald Davidson's identification of two modes of explanation for action: rational and physical causal explanation. Davidson's action theory provides a naturalized ontology for action theory, but not a naturalized concept of intentional action. This article raises doubts about Davidson's basis for such one-sided naturalism. It examines some conditions for a mode of explanation, in order to clarify whether an intentional mode of explanation might have ontological significance and thus raise problems for ontological naturalism. The article argues for the central role of certain instrumental factors in explanatory strategies, whether naturalistic or intentional; and it casts doubt on Jaegwon Kim's recent argument that intentional psychology and neuroscience are mutually exclusive as explanatory strategies. A key lesson is that variable end-dependent reasons are our only wherewithal in the evaluation of explanatory strategies. In this sense, our explanatory strategies are ultimately instrumental and perspectival. The article draws out the implications of this lesson for naturalized action theory and for psychological explanation. It opposes any suggested monopoly on explanation from the physical sciences
Mucciolo, Laurence F. (1975). Neurophysiological reduction, psychological explanation and neuropsychology. Philosophy of the Social Sciences 5 (3).   (Google)
O'Connor, Timothy (1997). Is Free Will Just Another Chaotic Process? (Review of Three Books). Times Literary Supplement (Dec.5).   (Google)
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Owens, Joseph (1994). Psychological externalism and psychological explanation. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 54 (4):921-928.   (Google | More links)
Peacocke, Christopher (1981). Demonstrative thought and psychological explanation. Synthese 49 (2):187-217.   (Google)
Peacocke, Christopher (1979). Holistic explanation: An outline of a theory. In Rational Action. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.   (Google)
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Quillen, Keith (1986). Propositional attitudes and psychological explanation. Mind and Language 1:133-57.   (Annotation | Google | More links)
Quillen, Keith (1989). Perceptual belief and psychological explanation. Philosophical Quarterly 39 (July):276-293.   (Google | More links)
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Ringen, Jon D. (1976). Explanation, teleology, and operant behaviorism. Philosophy of Science 43 (June):223-253.   (Cited by 2 | Google | More links)
Rock, Irvin (1991). On explanation in psychology. In Ernest LePore & Robert Van Gulick (eds.), John Searle and His Critics. Cambridge: Blackwell.   (Google)
Sandis, Constantine (2009). Gods and mental states : The causation of action in ancient tragedy and modern philosophy of mind. In Constantine Sandis (ed.), New Essays on the Explanation of Action. Palgrave Macmillan.   (Google)
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Sawyer, Sarah (2006). The role of object-dependent content in psychological explanation. Teorema 25 (1):181-192.   (Google)
Sayre-McCord, Geoffrey (1989). Functional explanations and reasons as causes. Philosophical Perspectives 3:137-164.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: If we assume that a conceptual connection does hold between reasons and action, the arguments for both theses are strikingly simple. In defense of the first thesis, all that need be added is Hume's Principle: between cause and effect only a (logically) contingent relation holds. For given Hume's Principle, and the conceptual connection (which after all is not a contingent one), it follows that no causal connection holds. In defense of the second thesis, all that need be added is one assumption and one observation. The assumption is that the covering-law model of explanation is adequate to the natural sciences; the observation is that if a conceptual connection does hold, then covering-laws are not required to explain a person's action given the presence of the relevant beliefs and desires (because the presence of the latter entail the performance of the former). Together the assumption and the observation undermine the view that one model of explanation will fit both natural science and human psychology
Schneider, Susan (2005). Direct reference, psychological explanation, and Frege cases. Mind and Language 20 (4):423-447.   (Cited by 5 | Google | More links)
Abstract: In this essay I defend a theory of psychological explanation that is based on the joint commitment to direct reference and computationalism. I offer a new solution to the problem of Frege Cases. Frege Cases involve agents who are unaware that certain expressions corefer (e.g. that 'Cicero' and 'Tully' corefer), where such knowledge is relevant to the success of their behavior, leading to cases in which the agents fail to behave as the intentional laws predict. It is generally agreed that Frege Cases are a major problem, if not the major problem, that this sort of theory faces. In this essay, I hope to show that the theory can surmount the Frege Cases
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Steedman, Mark (1985). LFG and psychological explanation. Linguistics and Philosophy 8 (3).   (Google)
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Abstract: In his Knowledge and its Limits (2000) Timothy Williamson argues that knowledge can be causally efficacious and as such figure in psychological explanation. His argument for this claim figures as a response to a key objection to his overall thesis that knowing is a mental state. In this paper I argue that although Williamson succeeds in establishing that knowledge in some cases is essential to the power of certain causal explanations of actions, he fails to do this in a way that establishes knowledge itself as a causal factor. The argument thus fails to support his overall claim that knowledge should be conceived as a state of mind.
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Valentine, Elizabeth (1988). Teleological explanations and their relation to causal explanation in psychology. Philosophical Psychology 1 (1):61-68.   (Google)
Abstract: The relation of teleological to causal explanations in psychology is examined. Nagel's claim that they are logically equivalent is rejected. Two arguments for their non-equivalence are considered: (i) the impossibility of specifying initial conditions in the case of teleological explanations and (ii) the claim that different kinds of logic are involved. The view that causal explanations provide only necessary conditions whereas teleological explanations provide sufficient conditions is rejected: causal explanations can provide sufficient conditions, typically being unable to provide necessary ones, whereas teleological explanations tend to point to necessary features. Nor is a distinction in terms of intensional and extensional logic entirely satisfactory, although there is some support for the view that teleological and causal explanations invoke different types of explanatory framework. A key feature of teleogical explanation is the achievement of the same goal by a variety of means. Thus its main scientific function is likely to be heuristic rather than predictive
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Abstract: Some theorists approach the Gordian knot of consciousness by proclaiming its inherent tangle and mystery. Others draw out the sword of reduction and cut the knot to pieces. Philosopher Thomas Metzinger, in his important new book, Being No One: The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity,1 instead attempts to disentangle the knot one careful strand at a time. The result is an extensive and complex work containing almost 700 pages of philosophical analysis, phenomenological reflection, and scientific data. The text offers a sweeping and comprehensive tour through the entire landscape of consciousness studies, and it lays out Metzinger's rich and stimulating theory of the subjective mind. Metzinger's skilled integration of philosophy and neuroscience provides a valuable framework for interdisciplinary research on consciousness. Metzinger's overall goal in Being No One is to defend a representational theory of subjectivity, one that reduces subjective mental processes to representational mental processes. Subjective experiences take place whe n there is a conscious perspective, an active first-person point of view. It occurs in
Weil, Vivian M. (1980). Intentional and mechanistic explanation. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 40 (June):459-473.   (Google | More links)
Wright, Cory (2007). Is psychological explanation going extinct? In Huib Looren de Jong & Maurice K. D. Schouten (eds.), The Matter of the Mind: Philosophical Essays on Psychology, Neuroscience and Reduction. Oxford: Blackwell.   (Google)
Abstract: Psychoneural reductionists sometimes claim that sufficient amounts of lower-level explanatory achievement preclude further contributions from higher-level psychological research. Ostensibly, with nothing left to do, the effect of such preclusion on psychological explanation is extinction. Reductionist arguments for preclusion have recently involved a reorientation within the philosophical foundations of neuroscience---namely, away from the philosophical foundations and toward the neuroscience. In this chapter, I review a successful reductive explanation of an aspect of reward function in terms of dopaminergic operations of the mesocorticolimbic system in order to demonstrate why preclusion/extinction claims are dubious.
Wright, Cory D. & Bechtel, William P. (2007). Mechanisms and psychological explanation. In Paul Thagard (ed.), Philosophy of Psychology and Cognitive Science. Elsevier.   (Google)
Abstract: As much as assumptions about mechanisms and mechanistic explanation have deeply affected psychology, they have received disproportionately little analysis in philosophy. After a historical survey of the influences of mechanistic approaches to explanation of psychological phenomena, we specify the nature of mechanisms and mechanistic explanation. Contrary to some treatments of mechanistic explanation, we maintain that explanation is an epistemic activity that involves representing and reasoning about mechanisms. We discuss the manner in which mechanistic approaches serve to bridge levels rather than reduce them, as well as the different ways in which mechanisms are discovered. Finally, we offer a more detailed example of an important psychological phenomenon for which mechanistic explanation has provided the main source of scientific understanding
Wright, L. (1973). Rival explanations. Mind 82 (October):497-514.   (Google | More links)