Document Type

Article

Publication Date

10-2003

DOI

10.1023/B:PHIL.0000005558.40211.01

Abstract

According to many philosophers, psychological explanation canlegitimately be given in terms of belief and desire, but not in termsof knowledge. To explain why someone does what they do (so the common wisdom holds) you can appeal to what they think or what they want, but not what they know. Timothy Williamson has recently argued against this view. Knowledge, Williamson insists, plays an essential role in ordinary psychological explanation.Williamson's argument works on two fronts.First, he argues against the claim that, unlike knowledge, belief is``composite'' (representable as a conjunction of a narrow and a broadcondition). Belief's failure to be composite, Williamson thinks, undermines the usual motivations for psychological explanation in terms of belief rather than knowledge.Unfortunately, we claim, the motivations Williamson argues against donot depend on the claim that belief is composite, so what he saysleaves the case for a psychology of belief unscathed.Second, Williamson argues that knowledge can sometimes provide abetter explanation of action than belief can.We argue that, in the cases considered, explanations that cite beliefs(but not knowledge) are no less successful than explanations that citeknowledge. Thus, we conclude that Williamson's arguments fail both coming andgoing: they fail to undermine a psychology of belief, and they fail tomotivate a psychology of knowledge.

Comments

The final publication is available at Springer via http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/B:PHIL.0000005558.40211.01.

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