Philosophy of the Mind
In an attempt to understand the philosophy and workings of the human mind, this discussion shall focus on the flaws of the beliefs, ideologies, theories, and approaches endorsed by Donald Davidson. However, in order to limit the scope of this research and critical analyses of the philosophies of Davidson, the issues underlying radical interpretation as they relate to the philosophical assumption on the irrationality of human agents shall serve as the backdrop of this discussion.
Aside from the actual and direct discussion of Davidson’s philosophies, radical interpretation, and the assumptions on the rationality or irrationality of human agents, this discussion shall also explore the difficulties and challenges of integrating Davidson’s approaches in the philosophies of the human mind, as well as other related complexities.
As a means to address these difficulties, challenges, and complexities, some recommendations and contributions shall be provided along with the discussions of the primary ideas, which shall be represented through the assumption and argument that the concept of radical interpretation is flawed because to begin with, man displays irrational thinking and behavior in multiple settings.
In order to realize the objectives of this discussion, particularly the goal of disproving radical interpretation, the philosophical approaches of Davidson, in light of the concept of Radical Interpretation, and the principles underlying it, such as the Principle of Charity and rational agents. In order to substantiate facts that disprove radical interpretation, the concept of the Weakness of Will, or the ineffectual influence of what the individual believes he ought to doing against what he actually wants to do, shall also be discussed comprehensively in order to prove that man, in so many aspects of life, is an irrational being.
The Approaches of Davidson and Flaws The approaches of Davidson as integrated in the philosophy of mind are represented b the token-identity theories, otherwise known as token physicalism. This theory, according to Davidson, creates parallelism in the events that take place in the mind or the mental state and the body or the physical state of the mind. (Joseph, 2005) For instance, if a man believes in the fact that the world is round, it shall be translated or reflected, one way or another, through his physical states.
The token-identity theory as proposed by Davidson establish the operational connection between a human being’s mental state and physical state, such that once a mental state exists or is activated, its manifestation in the physical state follows. However, despite this parallelism that constituted Davidson’s arguments, several individuals criticized how Davidson united the ideas of the mental state and the physical state since the understanding of the mental state in concrete terms is entirely implausible. (Evnine, 1991)
As the discussion of Davidson’s token identity theory was developed, Evnine said that “two beliefs are each identical to some physical event or other does not entail that there is a single kind of physical event such that our two beliefs are identical to a physical event of that kind. ” (Evnine, 1991) Furthermore, the substantiation of the argument against Davidson’s theory on token-identities lies in the differences between a thought and perspective that represents a human being’s beliefs, notions, or desires.
The belief and the desire represent the mental state; however, it is highly probable that the belief and desire of a human being conflicts with one another. Thus, the physical state, whatever man chooses to do depending on his belief or desire, will contradict one of the two entities – belief and desire – that constitute the mental state. A mental state varies from a physical state because of the degree of action or realization that a man does in order to do or not do what he believes in.
Furthermore, preconceived notions vary under different circumstances or environments. This sets apart the theory and approaches of Davidson from other philosophies on identities because he was able to compartmentalize and then individualize identities, although erroneously, in various mental and physical states, represented by tokens. Evnine (1991) metaphorically described the various concepts constituting Davidson’s token identity theory by saying that “As particulars, token events can be described in many different ways.
Nobody would think that, just because one and the same object can be a tie and a birthday present, all ties are birthday presents or all birthday presents are ties. ” This simply means that the mental states of human beings vary in terms of the tokens that represent beliefs, realities, and so on. Furthermore, this difference mean that tokens in the mental state do not necessarily reflect or manifest in physical states. Another concept that debunks Davidson’s token-identity theory is the impossibility of reflecting and representing mental tokens to physical states.
It does not mean that if a person thinks of or believes in something, he will actually or practically do something about it in the physical state. There is simply a big difference between what a human being believes that he should think, do or say, and what he decides to eventually act on in the end. These ideas also formulate the differences between a man’s ideals and actions. A deeper understanding of the “ought vs. will” concept necessitates the integration of ideas from human rationality. This is because rational agents represent the reasons or motivations behind the actions of man in the physical state.
Radical interpretation is another philosophical approach introduced by Davidson, in trying to learn or understand the beliefs, notions, and ideologies of a human being. It is, according to Lewis (1983), a “two-fold interpretation” of the language system of a human being, and what we, as supposed interpreters, understand about another human being’s attitudes, beliefs and desires, according to our language. Radical interpretation may be represented through a process wherein the beliefs, notions, and ideologies of a human being are observed initially through his physical state or system.
The key to giving meaning to these observations is the individual’s language and the interpreter’s language. These interpretations, which are merely based on what human beings manifest through their physical systems, are specific to all features, aspects, and characteristics that are exclusive to those human beings being observed. The primary concern of radical interpretation then “is rather the attitudes, for example of belief or desire, that the speaker has towards his sentences… what is needed for interpretation is not primarily the speaker’s attitudes towards his audience, but towards his sentences.
” (Davidson, 2004) Since radical interpretation is completely reliant on language as expressed through man’s physical system, the results or outcomes of interpretation are limited to what individuals, as interpreters, only perceive through observations and interpretation of language, and does not constitute prior knowledge about what subsists in a human being’s mental state. This establishes the flaw of radical interpretation because the radical interpreter should at least be endowed with knowledge of the nature of human beliefs, meanings underlying thoughts as well as actions and so on.
As Davidson (2001b) said, “The interpreter’s problem is that what he is assumed to know – the causes of assents to sentences of a speaker – is, as we have seen, the product of two things he is assumed not to know, meaning and belief. ” However, determining or even measuring the capacity of an individual to actually understand and frame the actions and language or an individual rationally and precisely is not bound by authentication and substantiation.
With this in mind, Davidson proposed what radical interpreters should know in order to make valid and compelling interpretations of the language and physical manifestations of meanings and beliefs in human beings – that is, the knowledge, as expressed in a theoretical framework, of what a human being is expected to believe in, as well as knowledge about various factors or agents that look into the human being’s rational self. As a means to support these propositions, Davidson introduced the Principle of Charity and the concepts underlying rational agency.
These two theories allow the radical interpreter to clearly understand the nature of man’s belief system, and then integrate concepts of rational agents in order to understand man’s language. (Lepore & Ludwig, 2007) “The assumption that the speaker is large rational and that most of his environmentally directed beliefs are true are two parts of the Principle of Charity. Davidson argues that Charity is not an option in interpretation but a constitutive feature of it.
” (Davidson, Lepore, & Ludwig, 2006) Furthermore, this particular principle “calls on us to fit our own propositions (or our own sentences) to the other person’s words and attitudes in such a way as to render their speech and other behavior intelligible. ” (Davidson, 2004) This means that a radical interpreter may be able to make valid or accurate assumptions about the beliefs, notions, or ideologies of the human being or subject interpreted if the radical interpreter strongly believes that the language and actions of the subject are caused or motivated by reason.
(Samuels & Stich, 2004) In addition, as stated by Donaldson (2001), “A reason rationalizes an action only if it leads us to see something the agent saw, or thought he saw, in his action – some feature, consequence, or aspect of the action the agent wanted, desired, prized, held dear, thought dutiful, beneficial, obligatory, or agreeable. ” These approaches and ideas endorsed by Davidson substantiate readings and discussions on how beliefs, desires, and linguistic manifestations that occur in mental and physical states are to be rationalized.
However, linguistic manifestations, as part of the physical state, are not, as aforementioned, a reliable or accurate medium to truly determine the beliefs, notions, and desires of a human being. Another idea on radical interpretation that Donaldson expressed is how the radical interpreter is able to proceed by keeping in mind that beliefs and desires form a singular motivation or impulse for a human being to act and manifest them through his physical state.
Davidson (2001) said, “If we begin with the suggestion that if a man has beliefs and desires that rationalize an action of type x, then he intentionally performs an action of type x, it is easy to see that we improve matters if we add to the antecedent ‘and those beliefs and desires, or the coming to have them, cause the agent to perform an action of type x’. ” This concept also establishes another flaw in radical interpretation because a human being’s beliefs and desires are compartmentalized into a single idea, which normally differs in terms of how an individual goes about in acting or realizing either his beliefs or desires.
Take for instance, the moral belief of a man that committing murder is evil. However, if under specific circumstances, he is subjected to a situation that pains and angers him, the desire to commit murder ensues in order to bring justice and retribution to himself. The resulting action from his belief or desire then varies according to what he actually decides to do in the end. Davidson (2006) also supports the idea that the beliefs of man are true.
He said, “First I urge that a correct understanding of the speech, beliefs, desires, intentions, and other propositional attitudes of a person leads to the conclusion that most of a person’s beliefs must be true, and so there is a legitimate presumption that any one of them, if it coheres with most of the rest, is true… an so in particular, anyone who wonders whether he has any reason to suppose he is generally right about the nature of his environment, must know what a belief is, and how in general beliefs are to be detected and interpreted.
” With the philosophical approaches and theories of Davidson in mind, we are able to understand that the concept of radical interpretation is somewhat flawed because of its limitations and erroneous understanding of man, particularly how his beliefs and desires intertwine in order to manifest an action through man’s physical system. This idea, as supported by criticisms previously aforementioned throughout the discussion of Davidson’s theory, is substantiated by the concept of the Weakness of Will.
The Weakness of Will: Why Radical Interpretation is Flawed Despite Donaldson’s contributions to radical interpretation and the concept of rational agents or reason behind actions, including beliefs and desires, his ideas integrated in the concept of the “weakness of the will” help in debunking radical interpretation by proving that man is largely irrational and therefore unable to create radical interpretations since this kind of interpretation necessitates a radical interpreter’s knowledge or rational agents.
The concept of the weakness of the will is represented by the existence of two choices or options that a human being may be able to choose from, where one is the ideal choice and the other is an alternative that he may or may not choose. However, the true meaning of the weakness of the will is an action or decision that is “free, intentional action contrary to the agent’s better judgment. ” (Stroud, 2008)
Furthermore, the question of what the weakness of will actually is, is represented by the “apparent conflict between the thought that what someone actually does intentionally, when he is faced with a choice between two actions, shows that he really wants more, and the thought that when someone judges one thing better than another, he wants it more than the other. ” (Davidson, Lepore, & Ludwig, 2006) In simple terms, whether or not a human being chooses to the right or the wrong thing, what he eventually does in the end reflects what he strongly desires to do.
Furthermore, a human being’s decision of whether to choose to do one thing from another is primarily influenced by the judgments and ideas that he obtains from his external environment. These discussions establish the idea that man is irrational since his actions and decisions may be overridden by his strong desires, no matter how good or bad it is, and then partially influenced by judgments from other people, whether good or bad. The idea that man is largely irrational is supported by the philosophical perspectives of Aristotle as he said, “no man can sustain the life of pure reason for more than very brief periods.
” Furthermore, the teachings of Aristotle were geared towards the “necessity of studying the irrational factors in behavior” if man expects to “reach a realistic understanding of human nature. ” (Dodds, 2004) Aristotle’s teachings guide us in understanding why man is incapable of understanding the beliefs and desires of other human beings just be observing his actions, interpreting his language system, and then integrating rational thoughts by believing in rational agents, which are precursors to an individual’s physical state.
This is because man is unable to fully and continuously think and make decisions rationally due to the strong influence of human desire, which does not coincide with ideal beliefs or what he knows he ought to do in the end. Practically speaking, the intentions of man will lead him to make final and physically executable choices and decisions, despite his better judgment, as his intentions, fuelled by his beliefs and then his desires activate his actions and approaches in realizing them.
As discussed by Aristotle, weakness of will is brought about by a “kind of forgetting. ” (Davidson, 2004) For instance, two men unknowingly sat on a freshly painted bench at the park since there were no signs or warnings written on it. Supposing there are two options, and that is either to inform the management to put a sign on the bench in order to avoid future undesirable incidents to other people, and the second option is to simply leave and go home and change one’s clothes immediately to avoid being embarrassed.
Clearly, the first option is the better option, in terms of correcting mistakes or failings and preventing accidents from happening in the future. The first man chose the first option, while the second man chose the second option. From this example, we understand that the decision of the second man reflects weakness of will, which was caused by his forgetting to do the rational thing. His intention was to save himself from embarrassment, as opposed to preventing other people from being subjected to the same situation by reporting the incident to the park’s management.
These concepts envelope the weakness of will, which consequently substantiates the idea that radical interpretation is flawed because man is generally irrational. In this situation, the irrationality of man is represented by his self-service. The nature of self-serving, or being selfish, is considered to be part of human nature, which consequently substantiates the idea that irrationality is also part of human nature.
As Classical Realists put it, “People are largely self-serving in their behavior, yet are prone to irrational behavior and are simple-minded, easily fooled, and susceptible to being controlled and used. As a result, while people are generally motivated by selfish concerns, they can not be expected to do particularly well in satisfying even their perceived self-interest, let alone what is really in their interest (should that be different).
” (Sosa & Villanueva, 2003) Furthermore, in practical terms, the existence of offenders and the inevitable occurrence of human mistakes and errors due to actions, decisions, and choices made, reflect how man is largely incapable of understanding through the rational, let alone commit to radical interpretation by resorting to the rational in order to understand the beliefs and desires of human beings translated to actions. By and large, the argument of the flaw of radical interpretation and the dominance of the weakness of will over it is generally represented by akrasia.
“The classical Greek term akrasia… the power to control oneself… in this sense, is very roughly, a robust capacity to see to it that one acts as one judges best in the face of actual or anticipated competing motivation. ” (Mele, 2004) Most of the time, although human beings are aware of what the best actions and decisions constitute, they still choose to do otherwise, as motivated by several factors, such as belief, desire, or compulsions. Furthermore, “it is worth noting, however, that unless a desire is irresistible, it is up to the agent, in some sense, whether she acts on it.
This idea is an element of both the motivational and the intellectual perspective on intentional action. ” (Mele, 2004) Overall, man has always the option of whether to follow the best decision, choice, or judgment, and the idea that the best decision, choice, or judgment may not always be what a human agent wants or desires to do, establishes the idea that the best decision, choice, or judgment may not always prevent in the end. This consequently develops the irrationality of man, such that despite the existence of the best choices, decisions, or judgments, he still opts to do the other thing based on his motivating intentions.
His will is weak to follow these best decisions, choices, or judgments, due to his lack of self-control. Ultimately, beyond the philosophical sense, which is sometimes implausible to understand concretely, the argument that man is irrational may be practically realized by man’s inevitable nature to make mistakes, despite his capability, through his cognitive faculties, to do otherwise. References Davidson, D. (2001). Essays on Actions & Events, 2nd Ed. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Davidson, D. (2001b) Subjective, Intersubjective and Objective. US: Clarendon Press.
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Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Mele, A. R. (2004). Motivated Irrationality. In Mele and Rawling, The Oxford Handbook of Rationality. US: Oxford University Press. Samuels, R. and Stich, S. (2004) Rationality and Psychology. In Mele and Rawling, The Oxford Handbook of Rationality. US: Oxford University Press. Sosa, E. and Villanueva, E. (2003). Social, Political, and Legal Philosophy. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. Stroud, S. (2008). Weakness of Will. Retrieved 17 May 2009, from Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. Website: http://plato. stanford. edu/entries/weakness-will/Sample Essay of PapersOwl.com