The Material Mind

Donald Davidson

in Essays on Actions and Events

Published in print September 2001 | ISBN: 9780199246274
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191715198 | DOI:

Series: The Philosophical Essays of Donald Davidson (5 Volumes)

 The Material Mind

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This essay continues the question from Essay 12 on the nature of psychology as a science, except that it engages hypothetically with a very precise knowledge of the physical workings of the mind. If we succeed in building a physical machine that perfectly imitates human behaviour, we can predict its behaviour on the sole basis of purely physical terms; nevertheless, to the extent that psychological explanations appeal to the concepts of desire, belief, and intention, they remain definitionally irreducible to such predictions (Essay 11, Essay 12). Inversely, regardless of how well advanced our neurophysiology is, it would provide no shortcut to the kind of interpretation required for the application of psychological concepts. After explaining at length what the application of those key concepts involves, Davidson stresses that their definitional irreducibility does not threaten a materialist metaphysics, provided we are willing to settle for a non‐reductive variety (see Essay 11).

Keywords: antireductionism; behaviour; definitional reduction; desire and belief; intention; psychology as science

Chapter.  6301 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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