Friday, November 30, 2007

Lovell on the Causal Role of Reasons--Why Anscombe's critique is not decisive

 This is because such an account of what it means to hold a belief rationally allows for no distinction between reasons for holding a belief and rationalisations of that belief. Suppose that chancy Charlie decides what to believe on a certain subject through a game of chance (by associating the various positions that might be held on the subject with the different possible outcomes of the game). Even though Charlie, being an intelligent and creative fellow, can produce formidable arguments for the position he adopts he surely does not hold that belief rationally. The problem here is that the reasons that Charlie offers in support of his belief are not really his reasons. To count as his reasons those reasons must at least partially explain why Charlie believes as he does. That is to say, the reasons are to justify Charlie’s belief those reasons must be part of what brings it about that Charlie believes as he does. It may have been something like this concern that Lewis was voicing in the central passage, quoted above. What does it take for a person’s reasons to be a part of what brings it about that they believe as they do? It seems to me to take, at least, the truth of both P4 and P5, which to remind the reader, ran as follows.

P4) The apprehension of logical laws plays an explanatory role in the acceptance of the conclusion of the argument as true.

P5) The state of accepting the truth of a proposition plays a crucial explanatory role in the production of other beliefs, and propositional content is relevant to the playing of this role.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Are rational beliefs always logically valid deductions from certain premises?

If somebody thinks that a loving God would not allow evil, is that a rational belief to hold?

Anonymous said...

"The problem here is that the reasons that Charlie offers in support of his belief are not really his reasons. To count as his reasons those reasons must at least partially explain why Charlie believes as he does."

Anscomebe wrote:
It appears to me that if a man has reasons, and they are good reasons, and they are genuinely his reasons, for thinking something - then his thought is rational, whatever causal statements we make about him.

I fail to see anything in what you've quoted from Lovell here that would dispel the force of Anscombe's critique.

mattghg said...

But surely to say "they are genuinely his reasons, for thinking something" is to make a causal statement. What am I missing?

Anonymous said...

Why do you think it a causal statement?

What am I missing?

mattghg said...

My reasons (which I won't go into) for voting Liberal Democrat in the last General Election caused me to vote for them. How could they genuinely be my reasons for doing so otherwise?

I guess what I'm asking for is some idea of what it means for something to genuinely be a reason for x without in some sense causing x to come about. I can't see how in that case we could call that thing a "reason", which is why I asked what I was missing. I wasn't being sarcastic.

Anonymous said...

Mattghg,

Thanks for your response.

My reasons (which I won't go into) for voting Liberal Democrat in the last General Election caused me to vote for them. How could they genuinely be my reasons for doing so otherwise?

It looks to me like you are conflating acting on your reasons and having a reason which may or may not result in action.

If I were to ask you why you thought the Liberal Democratic candidate was worthy of your support and you gave me an honest answer as to why you believed so, then the reasons for that support are your reasons. Whether or not you go ahead and actually cast a vote in favor of your candidate is, from my perspective, irrelevant to whether or not your reasons are really your reasons.

After all you could have gone ahead and voted for the candidate because your friend told you to do so and lied to me about your real reasons. So behavior alone is not going to guarantee that your real reasons can be known.


I guess what I'm asking for is some idea of what it means for something to genuinely be a reason for x without in some sense causing x to come about. I can't see how in that case we could call that thing a "reason", which is why I asked what I was missing.

So then your think reasons ‘cause’ us to believe the things we believe? I beg to differ. Looks to me like you have some sort of mechanical conception of how the mind works.


I wasn't being sarcastic.

I never meant to imply that you were being sarcastic. I was genuinely puzzled by your assertion that “they are genuinely his reasons, for thinking something” was a causal statement.

To me it seems quite obvious that if I am honest about why I believe something, then the reasons for my belief really are my reasons.

I am still having some trouble understanding why your want to drag causation into this.

Victor Reppert said...

Historically, Davidson's "åctions, Reason, and Cauees," extensively anthologized, has been thought to have successfully undermined the "reasons and causes are unrelated" position.

Anonymous said...

Davidson couldn't possibly be wrong, coud he?
(Sarcasm intended.)

Victor Reppert said...

Of course, I didn't say that. However, a considerable literature has grown up around the problem of whether a mental causation is possible in a physicalist universe. For example, there has been a lively debate surrounding whether Davidson's own anomalous monism (a prototypical form of non-reductive materialism) leaves room for mental causation in virtue of content. Davidson's paper has had a great deal to do with the fact that most naturalists today would be less than completely happy with Anscombe's defense of their of position.

Actually, in one essay Jaegwon Kim flirted with a non-causal theory of reasons-explanations, but gave it up later.

I'm not saying the position is unoccupied, or that philosophy couldn't have made a wrong turn in rejecting a non-causal theory of reasons. It's been a minority report for 50 years now. (Of course my own views are a minority report, so that's not a decisive argument).

Anonymous said...

"It's been a minority report for 50 years now. (Of course my own views are a minority report, so that's not a decisive argument)."

And hence the reason for my sarcasm.
I happen to think mental causation is coneceptually flawed. So we do at least have in common the fact that our relative philosophical positions are in the minority.
I fail to see why either of us should in the least be troubled by that.:-)