Chapter

Causalism and Interpretationism: The Problem of Compatibility

William Child

in Causality, Interpretation, and the Mind

Published in print January 1996 | ISBN: 9780198236252
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597206 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0198236255.003.0005

Series: Oxford Philosophical Monographs

Causalism and Interpretationism: The Problem of Compatibility

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Interpretationism in the philosophy of mind is often thought to conflict with the idea that beliefs and desires play a genuinely causal role. It is argued that there is in fact no such conflict and that a causal understanding of the mental is essential for realism about mental phenomena and about the relations between thought and reality. First, the chapter considers and responds to various reasons for thinking that the metaphysics of interpretationism is incompatible with a causal view of the mental. Then it examines the view of philosophers (like Richard Rorty) who accept that rationalizing, interpretative stories and causal stories are both legitimate, but argue that no single account of anything can be simultaneously rationalizing and causal. Against that view, it is argued that, unless we see interpretative, psychological stories as themselves being causal stories, we cannot understand psychological explanation and we cannot understand how thought and experience can have the objective content they do.

Keywords: causation; content; interpretationism; realism; Rorty

Chapter.  9004 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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