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Essays on Actions and Events$
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Donald Davidson

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780199246274

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0199246270.001.0001

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The Material Mind

The Material Mind

(p.245) 13 The Material Mind
Essays on Actions and Events

Donald Davidson

Oxford University Press

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

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