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Explaining Behavior: Reasons in a World of Causes (Representation and Mind) (Bradford Books) Paperback – February 5, 1991

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Explaining Behavior: Reasons in a World of Causes (Representation and Mind) (Bradford Books) + Knowledge and the Flow of Information
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Product Details

  • Series: Bradford Books
  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: A Bradford Book; Reprint edition (February 5, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262540614
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262540612
  • Product Dimensions: 0.4 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,473,370 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


[An] important book, as intelligent and challenging as readers of Fred Dretske's earlier works will expect.... Dretske is well-informed in cognitive science, evolutionary biology and animal behavior, and one of the pleasures of his book is the range of examples which inform the arguments.... His careful, nontechnical presentation will be a focus for discussion in the philosophy of mind.

(Christopher Hookway Times Higher Education Supplement)

The problem addressed by Dretske of the relation between national and physical explanations of human action has become one of the principal problems in the philosophy of mind and of psychology, and it will be how the classic mind-body problem is going to be debated in the next decade.

(Professor Jaegwon Kim, Chairman, Department of Philosophy, Brown University)

About the Author

Fred Dretske is Senior Research Scholar in the Department of Philosophy, Duke University.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By Philonous on February 27, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book a few months after Fred Dretske passed away, so by the time I finished this book I was disappointed that I cannot meet the man who wrote this wonderful book. Dretske wrote this book to address the disquieting philosophical problem: Even if we concede that intentional states (e.g. beliefs and desires) exist, they may not have any causal efficacy with regards to our behavior. A simple yet powerful illustration is the meaningful high pitched noise. The high pitched noise has an acoustic efficacy that breaks a glass, but it was by virtue of its high pitched acoustics, rather than by virtue of its meaning. Similarly, a content of our intentional states may happen to coincide or supervene on our neurophysiological processes (i.e. motor signals) that lead to a behavior movement, but that behavior may occur due to our neurophysiological process, rather than by virtue of a content. If our intentional states do not explain our behavior, then this epiphenomenalism might shatter a view of ourselves as rational agents. We merely behave due to some electric signals from our neural circutry, rather than for reasons.

Dretske tries to overcome this philosophical problem by presenting a distinction between structuring and triggering cause. While an instantaneous event can trigger a process (triggering cause), a structural cause is simply when something that functions as an indicator also acquires a functional role of causing a behavior. An example Dretske uses is a heating furnace. A heating system has a thermostat wired up to its ignition of the furnace. When a thermostat indicates a drop of temperature it causes a furnace to light up to increase temperature.
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