chapter  5
45 Pages

Psychological explanation: cognitive interpretation

The second stage in the construction of a psychological explanation is the “cashing out” or intellectual justification of the intentional interpretation ascribed to an idealized system, one that optimizes a performance which we can make more intelligible by presenting it in intentional terms. I should like to contrast the relationship between the stages of intentional interpretation and cognitive interpretation Intentional Behaviorism employs and those of Dennett’s (1987) “three kinds of intentional psychology.” Dennett’s system is a sophisticated attempt to arrive at a cognitive explanation of behavior that includes sub-personal neuroscience as well as intentionality. The first intentional psychology he considers, folk psychology, is abstract, meaning that the desires and beliefs it employs are not necessarily components of the “internal behavior-causing system” to which they are attributed. Beliefs are concepts like that of the center of gravity; the calculation-bound operations to which the concept leads are more akin to those involving a parallelogram of forces rather than cogs and levers. Folk psychology is therefore instrumentalist rather than realistic in the sense most realists would require, though Dennett (1987) maintains that human beings really have desires and beliefs just as they really possess centers of gravity and the Earth has an Equator. Folk psychology alludes to two kinds of construct which, following Reichenbach, Dennett terms abstracta which are “calculation-bound entities or logical constructs,” and illata which are “posited theoretical entities” (Dennett, 1987, p. 53). Dennett proposes refining folk psychology by devising two further intentional theories, “one strictly abstract, idealizing, holistic, instrumentalistic – pure intentional systems theory – and the other a concrete, microtheoretic science of the actual realization of those intentional systems – what I will call sub-personal cognitive psychology” (SubPCP) (Dennett, 1987, p. 57).