Julia Tanney, "Rules, Reasons and Self-Knowledge" (Harvard UP, 2012)


It is fair to say that philosophy of mind and the sciences of the mind quite generally adhere to an information-processing model of cognition. A standard version holds that there are events going on in the brain that represent the world, and that familiar psychological terms are used to refer to these events. In Rules, Reasons and Self-Knowledge (Harvard University Press, 2012), Julia Tanney, Reader in Philosophy of Mind at the University of Kent, mounts a sustained attack on this dominant view. Taking her cue from Gilbert Ryle and Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tanney argues that reasons for action are not content-bearing mental states, and being rational is not learning certain rules. Instead, mental state ascriptions, in particular those of propositional attitudes, have the function of encapsulating or "marking" sense-making patterns of thoughts, actions, and sayings that are learned through acculturation. Understanding the mind starts from the perspective of reasons-explanations, which invoke these sense-making patterns: to ascribe a mental state to others and ourselves is to indicate a particular pattern, not refer to an event in the brain.

Related Topics

Your Host

Carrie Figdor

Carrie Figdor is professor of philosophy at the University of Iowa.

View Profile