death of the mind.

Allan C Cybulskie allan.c.cybulskie at
Thu Jul 15 18:39:45 EST 2004

"David Longley" <David at> wrote in message
news:Lg5JXdDQC48AFwYi at
> In article <ccurc7$vtt$2 at>, Neil W Rickert
> <rickert+nn at> writes
> Here's something which I recently posted in response to some of the
> insightless nonsense that Michaels wrote to c.a.p. As I have said many
> times, I consider your ('solipsistic') verbal behaviour to be of the
> same class (which is why I have so frequently included you when I've
> referred to Michaels, Ozkural, Zick, Zero etc).

I was going to address this issue in a commentary on your "Fragments", but
then you gave the impression that such a commentary would be pointless, but
I'll reply to this here ...

> ==================================================
> Here's something I said in c.a.p as far back as in August 1995, which is
> in the early part of "Fragments"
> <>. It has been discussed and
> explicated in so many ways since, that your above comments should, I
> think, be taken by other reads as an ongoing illustrations of just how
> resistant to corrective evidence people's prejudices and other
> intensional heuristics are. This has been a point I have been making for
> several years in this newsgroup. It accounts not only for why "Cognitive
> skills" programmes are so ineffective, but why so much of "AI" is
> misguided as well.
> You don't understand how little you understand of what you read on these
> matters.
> <
> uk>
>                                                 oOo
> Any explanation which is
>   '....relative to the purposes and knowledge of the inquirer....'
> is precisely what I have taken issue with in 'Fragments of Behaviour:
> The Extensional Stance'. Here was how Geach dealt with Fodor in 1980:
>     'Fodor  thinks that when we explain behaviour by  mental
>     causes,   these   causes   would   be   given   "opaque"
>     descriptions  "true  in  virtue of  the  way  the  agent
>     represents   the  objects  of  his  wants   (intentions,
>     beliefs,  etc.) to HIMSELF" (his emphasis). But what  an
>     agent  intends may be widely different from the  way  he
>     represents the object of his intention to himself. A man
>     cannot shuck off the responsibility for killing  another
>     man by just 'directing his intention' at the firing of a
>     gun:
>            "I press a trigger - Well, I'm blessed!
>             he's hit my bullet with his chest!"'
>     P. Geach
>     Commentary on J A Fodor's
>     Methodological Solipsism Considered as a Research Strategy in
>     Cognitive Psychology
>     Brain and Behavior Sciences (1980) vol 3, p80

The answer here is that, in most cases, the person who did so would not, in
fact, be directing their intention simply towards the firing of the gun.
See, the entire action of aiming the gun at the person and readying it to
fire would be for an intention to kill that person.  So, at the end of it,
if they directed their intention simply at firing the gun, all that they
would be doing is "fooling themselves" as to what their intention was.  But
we are capable of doing that.  That does not mean that it would be pointless
to talk about mental causes at all, which is what you'd want to do.

It is, in fact, perfectly possible for Geach's situation to occur.  Someone
may not be able to determine what the consequences of an action are, and so
they may, in fact, intend to simply pull the trigger when the gun was
pointed at someone and then be utterly surprised when it hits them.  This
would be an indication of a serious cognitive disability, but not one of
intention.  Also, a child or someone may pull a trigger and not be aware
that the gun was loaded, and so that it would actually fire, and face
similar surprise.  So Geach's comments only apply to a "shifting of
intention" after setting up the entire situation to realize a particular
end.  And so of COURSE they can't escape responsibility, since they set the
entire situation up in the first place and THEN deliberately fooled
themselves as to what their intention was.  So it isn't really a problem at

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