Habits and Explanation Essay

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Habits and Explanation

Habits form a crucial part of the everyday conceptual scheme used to explain normal human activity. However, they have been neglected in debates concerning folk-psychology which have concentrated on propositional attitudes such as beliefs. But propositional attitudes are just one of the many mental states. In this paper, I seek to expand the debate by considering mental states other than propositional attitudes. I conclude that the case for the autonomy and plausibility of the folk-psychological explanation is strengthened when one considers an example from the non-propositional-attitude mental states: habits. My main target is the radical eliminativist program. As regards habits, eliminativists could argue in two
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Moreover, the notion of practice as used by sociologists and historians is often assumed to be composed of habits: either as a summation of habits of many individuals, or as a collective habit of social entities like groups or institutions.

So habits form a crucial part of our everyday conceptual scheme used to explain normal human activity. They have however been neglected in debates concerning folk-psychology. These debates have concentrated on propositional attitudes, like beliefs. Using these attitudes as examples, radical eliminativists argue that folk-psychological explanation would have merit only if it reduces smoothly to neurophysiological explanation. But, according to them, folk-psychology exhibits explanatory failures on an epic scale (e.g. Churchland, 1981; Stich, 1983). The way our best theories in cognitive science carve up our mental activity is, or will turn out to be, so different from the way folk-psychology does it that there will be no possibility of identifying an adequate correspondence between the two. When we talk of beliefs, we are missing the joints: we are not referring to natural kinds that could ever be reduced to neurophysiological states of affairs. Smooth reduction is impossible. So we ought to abandon all folk-psychological explanations and the ontology they presuppose. But opponents have come to the rescue of folk-psychology. Among others, we find those who

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