The Failure of Pure Cognitivism

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According to Humeanism, actions cannot be adequately explained without reference to the desires of an agent. Desires are viewed as sources of motivation or as motivating states and thus as having an indispensable role to play in the explanation of actions. One of the main rivals of Humeanism is pure cognitivsm. According to this view, actions are to be explained exclusively by beliefs. The present paper's focus is on arguments Jonathan Dancy has put forward in favor of this pure cognitivist picture. His main line of argument tries to convince us of the claim that desires have no explanatory value at all as regards the explantion of an agent's actions. I argue that none of Dancy's arguments against Humeanism is successful, and moreover that the pure cognitivists position fails on its own terms because pure cognitivism is unable to provide an account of desires that makes intelligible their role in the mental economy of agents.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2008

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