Mind and Reality

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A course at the University of Warwick.

Lecture 18

Date given: Wednesday 9th December 2020

This is the youtube page for Lecture 18. In case you prefer, I have also put a page with the videos on microsoft stream here. Or, if you prefer, you can see the slides with no audio or video here.

Action: Recap

We are stuck on two questions. Do spiders have intentions? And when I duck to avoid a flying object, am I acting on any intention?

Reading (optional):

  • Bach, Kent. ‘A Representational Theory of Action’. Philosophical Studies 34, no. 4 (1978): 361–79. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00364703.
  • Bratman, M. E. (1984). Two faces of intention. The Philosophical Review, 93(3):375–405.

When Philosophical Methods Fail

Using philosophical methods alone can provide some knowledge, but there are limits. What are philosophical methods, and why are they so limited?

Thanks to Taryn Elliott (Cape Town, South Africa) for the dancing.

Two Kinds of Motivational State

Discoveries in animal learning theory enable us to distinguish desires from aversion and other primary motivational states. Indeed, your desires can be incompatible with your aversions (and with primary motivational states) in the sense that you can desire to eat something to which you are averse. This shows that are at least two systems of motivational states in rats or humans.

Thanks to Yaroslav Shuraev for the waterfall.

Experience Is the Key

‘primary motivational states, such as hunger, do not determine the value of an instrumental goal directly; rather, animals have to learn about the value of a commodity in a particular motivational state through direct experience with it in that state’ (Dickinson & Balleine, 1994 p. 7).

Thanks to Diana Kuehn for the rat.

Reading (optional): Dickinson, A. and Balleine, B. (1994). Motivational control of goal-directed action. Animal Learning & Behavior, 22(1):1–18.

Intention and Motivational States

We can dissociate at least two kinds of motivational state involved in causing action. These are linked to different patterns of explanation. Intentions (as well as beliefs and desires) play a role in one pattern of explanation, but not in the other. This allows us to conclude that intention is not the mark of all action even while recognising that there is more than one kind of distinction to be made between your actions and events which merely happen to you.

Conclusion on Action, Intention and Motivational States

Different marks distinguish different kinds of action. To find the marks, identify the patterns of explanation.

Thanks to Mohamed Hassan (Giza, Egypt) for the firework.