We’re all familiar with cases where one attributes certain psychological states or capacities to creatures and systems that are not human persons. For example, your cat might prefer
a certain variety of cat food, and maybe your houseplants enjoy
a certain corner of the room they’re in. In many cases, these attributions pass by without much notice. However, in certain regimented scientific contexts, the attribution of psychological states and capacities to non-human things has become indispensable in our best models of their behavior. For examples, complex explanatory accounts of fruit flies and certain plants involve claims about them making decisions
. And our best science has it that neurons anticipate
certain stimuli. What are we to make of these attributions?
In Pieces of Mind: The Proper Domain of Psychological Predicates
(Oxford University Press, 2018), Carrie Figdor
defends Literalism, the view that in regimented scientific contexts, the attribution of psychological states and capacities to nonhuman and sub-personal systems should be taken literally.