Dispositions to Behave

Rowland Stout

in The Inner Life of a Rational Agent

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780748623433
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652501 | DOI:
Dispositions to Behave

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One issue that arises for behaviourism is the question of whether states of mind may be said to cause our behaviour. In particular, it seems that Ryle must have denied that states of mind cause our behaviour, since, according to him, they do not exist behind the way we behave but are constituted by the way we behave. This chapter shows that we need to be very careful in making these moves, arguing that the way people are disposed to behave does in some sense cause their actual behaviour, and in that sense exists ‘behind’ it. It develops a conception of causal dispositions, which is more Aristotelian than is common in modern philosophy of causation. A crucial distinction is introduced between a so-called framework cause and an input cause. A framework cause is a mechanism or a system or a dispositional state. It is something with a potentiality, and the way it works must be described using conditional statements or laws. An input cause is an event or state whose presence or occurrence satisfies the antecedent of such a law so that the framework cause realises its potentiality and results in the effect.

Keywords: behaviourism; states of mind; Ryle; framework cause; input cause; causal dispositions

Chapter.  7345 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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