Archive for July 19th, 2021

July 19, 2021

Mental confusion

by Neil Rickert

I decided to have a little fun with the title, so it might be a tad misleading.


There is a thesis going by the name “mentalism” which is common in philosophy of mind. And there are things about mentalism that I find puzzling. So that’s the topic for today’s post. In his book “Psychological Explanation”, Jerry Fodor defines “mentalism” as the rejection of behaviorism. A large part of his book is engaged in criticizing Gilbert Ryle’s “The concept of mind”.

A side note. I looked up Fodor’s book in preparation for writing this. Amazon lists it as a paperback for $1500. Wow! I read it some time ago, borrowing from the university library. It is surely not worth $1500. (Amazon does also list less expensive used copies).

For myself, I guess I am really a behaviorist. And that may be why I find mentalism to be puzzling.

I take the term “mental” as having to do with the mind. So thinking would count as a mental activity. But it gets more complicated,, because some people talk about unconscious thinking. I doubt that there is any such thing.


I already have problems with the word “belief”. The verb “to believe” is straightforward. No doubt there are many statements that I would believe. But I never sure what is a belief. The noun “belief” used as an abstraction to refer to the concept of believing seems unproblematic. But that is not how “belief” is used.

read more »