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On some common objections to a behavioral approach to psychological categories

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This paper addresses several objections that have been leveled against a behavioral approach to psychological categories. It reconstructs and critically assesses (a) the so-called causal objection; (b) alleged counterexamples whereby one can exhibit the typical behaviors associated with a psychological phenomenon without exhibiting the latter, including Lewis’ “perfect actor” case and Kirk’s “zombie”; (c) alleged counterexamples whereby organisms can exemplify psychological phenomena without exhibiting any behavior associated with them, including Armstrong’s imagined brain in a vat, Putnam’s “super-super-spartans” scenario, and related cases; and (d) the holistic objection. Mistaken assumptions in each of these objections are pinpointed. The paper starts with a brief characterization of behaviorism about psychological categories and a summary of the particular version thereof supported here, which draws upon Ryle and Skinner, among others.
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Keywords: Behavior; behaviorism; covert behavior; embodied and enactive views; objections to behaviorism; psychological categories; psychological phenomena

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, University of Sao Paulo,

Publication date: 02 April 2016

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