Essay Sample on An Argument for Dispositionalism Over Representationalism

Published: 2023-03-07
Essay Sample on An Argument for Dispositionalism Over Representationalism
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Psychology Human behavior
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1367 words
12 min read

The arguments provided by Eric Schwitzgebel in the discussion of his in-between case offers a great insight into the reasons one would prefer dispositionalism to representationalism. In the case discussion, Eric Schwitzgebel provides an argument that in representationalism, an individual provides a yes or no answer as to whether he or she possesses a particular belief. However, Schwitzgebel believes an individual is presented with an in-between scenario that eliminates the option of a yes or no answer. In his argument, Schwitzgebel offers credible arguments regarding dispositionalism as an alternative to the representation theory of belief. This theory stipulates that beliefs are relations of an individual to a particular scenario referred to as representations. The approach further adds that these relations are all pictured in an individual's mind and not necessarily physically. Disposition, on the other hand, is a theory that was more popular in the 20th century and does not only consider mental representation but also considers outward factors such as human behavior and phenomenon that occur in their day-to-day activities. In this essay, I will review the disposition view of beliefs as presented by Schwitzgebel and provide reasons why the in-between case can be used in deciding whether to prefer dispositionalism to representationalism.

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According to Eric Schwitzgebel, the representation approach towards attitudes and beliefs requires people to have a definite answer (yes or no) that provides insight as to whether an individual has an explicit belief. However, this puts people in an in-between belief position because they cannot give a definite answer as to whether they possess a particular belief. This makes the disposition approach superior to the representation theory because dispositional people provide the possibility of grading belief.

Schwitzgebel provides a series of in-between belief cases that provide proper insight and intuition as to why he prefers dispositionalism over representationalism, and its effectiveness in understanding human believe. In the first case, the author describes the situation of Alfred, who is not sure whether he should feel grateful to Bertie or not. He goes ahead to explain that got to his current position of a general manager partly through the help of Bertie, who had worked in the role of a regional manager for many years in the company. Bertie was later forced into early retirement because of some indiscretions that are not connected to Alfred in any way. Although Alfred appreciates that he got to where he is because of the favours granted to him by Bertie, he resents the fact that she reaches out to her for lunches and talks and feels that he never accepted the favours that got him the promotion. He feels embarrassed by his connection with Bertie.

This is a perfect in-between scenario that shows that Alfred would say that he is grateful to Bertie in different situations. For instance, when dealing with a client, he would rather say that he is embarrassed by the actions of Bertie to maintain the image of the company. To his spouse, Alfred tells her that he is grateful to prevent her wife from asking more about her. Whenever he does this, it makes him feel like he is genuinely appreciative than when he tries not to feel embarrassed about the fact that he got promoted to his job position because of his close relationship with Bertie. He battles between the two dispositions cannot directly say that he is grateful to Bertie or not.

In the second in-between case, Schwitzgebel describes the dispositions of Juliet and describes her as an implicit racist. Juliets political stand is that of a liberal as she believes that all people are beautiful regardless of the colour of their skin or their race. Her behaviour and representation in public are that of appreciation to the beauty of black people, as in the case where she compliments and posts positive comments on the beauty of her black colleagues' children. She avoids making such comments on the beauty of the children of her white colleagues or the white celebrities and models she meets when she goes to the beach. Even though deep down in her mind, her attraction to the white models and stars is apparent. She has always suspected that she is an implicit racist due to her appeal to white people, and her deep appreciation of their beauty, even though she has convinced herself that all people are beautiful regardless of their colour or race. From this case, it can be seen that the answer to the question as to whether Juliet finds people of all races beautiful in a balanced way is neither yes or no. If asked, one would say 'kind of'.

According to Schwitzgebel, people have imperfectly or closely matched profiles when compared to others in terms of introverts and extroverts. This leads to differentiation and variation in dispositions which puts us in situations of in-between cases. Schwitzgebel refers to this scenario as the alignment into dispositional stereotypes. The space that is left between the in-between scenario is a belief box which in the cases described above could either be Alfred is grateful to Bertie or the other way around. The only way to truly know what Alfred thinks about Bertie is through the application of the superficial dispositional approach. Schwitzgebel further argues that the metaphor of the belief box to refer to a place in the mind where their representations are stored, and some become beliefs is the cause to increased paradoxes in the quest to understand human beliefs. He proposes that the metaphor should not be referenced and instead, the dispositionalism approach should be endorsed. Although Schwitzgebel agrees that representationalism provides a better pictorial description of beliefs than the belief box metaphor, he argues that for the mental representation to be regarded as credible, the individual must be standing in a position in the belief axis that shows a definite relationship.

Schwitzgebel further argues that our beliefs do not always reflect the representations of the beliefs in our minds. He quotes and echoes Dennett: "it should come as no news to any of you that zebras in the wild do not wear overcoats, but I hazard the guess that it hadn't occurred to any of you before just now" (1978, 104). He goes ahead to give an example that cements his argument about the number of planets in the solar system:

It seems that I also believe that there are fewer than nine planets. But do I also believe that there are fewer than ten planets? Fewer than 11? Fewer than 127? That there are i2e064 planets? More than just the four inner planets? That there are eight planets within the gravitational well of the nearest large hydrogen-fusing body? That there are eight known planet-like entities within half a light-year? That Shakespeare probably had too low an estimate of the number of planets? This list is, of course, potentially infinite.

The discussion of the cases provides a basis as to why Schwitzgebel supports dispositional theory towards belief. From the cases, I have deduced that a person does not have a clear line of thought that shows the intuition of believing in p or not. The examples show that belief not discrete but a gradable phenomenon. The cases cannot be treated as mental representations as proposed by the representational approach to belief. Representationalist statements could be represented in the form that depicts an s believes p is true if s relates to the representation contained in mind and whose contained in the set of p options. A perception or a belief in one's mind is a token that has a discrete representation. It is through the application of dispositional minimalism that Schwitzgebel argues that the people discussed in the in-between cases have a superficial notion of belief, as they 'kind of' have or sort of lacks the belief regarded as relevant. The author further argues that representationalism is not flexible as it does offer a more in-depth insight into the belief system of human beings. Because of the intuition provided by the dispositionalist approach, Schwitzgebel prefers dispositionalism to representationalism. Schwitzgebels' discussion of the in-between cases and his description of the belief box metaphor have convinced me that dispositionalism is preferable to representationalism.

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