3NEGATIVE REDUCTIVE STRATEGIES
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3NEGATIVE REDUCTIVE STRATEGIES book
Psychological instrumentalism denies the claim of token-identity and, in its most aggressive form, the claim of truth for the psychological scheme while accepting the indispensability and legitimacy of psychological characterization. It is currently most strongly championed by Daniel Dennett (1971, 1987),1 who I will often use as a paradigm instrumentalist although the doctrines I present as instrumentalist are not all necessarily his. The use of a living paradigm has its complications: for example Dennett himself claims that psychological ascriptions are sometimes true, but only on an instrumentalist understanding of them. If one takes what Dennett calls the intentional stance towards a system, be it human, animal or machine, one explains and predicts behaviour via the ascription of beliefs and desires-these being the principal ‘drivers’ of folk psychology although the full range of mental states is of course available for ascription-under the constraint of presumed rationality. The intentional stance is thus very similar to Davidsonian interpretation. If adopting the intentional stance enables one to successfully predict and (perhaps) explain the system’s behaviour then the system can be said to have the ascribed beliefs and desires, and to be rational. But there need be no internal physical states of the system corresponding to the ascribed psychological states. If one thinks of the psychological states as a set of interlocking dispositions, which seems an unexceptionable view if perhaps incomplete, then the instrumentalist claims that the physical basis of this set of dispositions is not an ‘image’ of these dispositions. That is, there is no set of physical states that even approximately mirrors the structure of the dispositions (where, roughly speaking, the structure is comprised of input conditions arising from percep-tion, internal relations among mental states, and output conditions leading to action). Physicalism rightly demands that every disposition have a physical basis but it is very far from clear that complex, interacting systems of dispositions require physical models as their bases.