3,033 research outputs found

    Mechanistic and psychological explanations of behaviour: the problem of mental causation

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    The problem we are going to investigate is that of mental causation. Human beings often explain to each other why they do what they do by citing their reasons, that is, mental states like beliefs and desires. Explanations of behaviour which invoke mental causes are known as psychological explanations. Mechanistic explanations, on the other hand, make sole reference to the neurophysical going-on in our bodies causally to explain behaviour. This kind of explanation has become entrenched in a naturalistic attitude towards any phenomemon which requires causal explanation. This naturalistic attitude, furthermore, holds explanation by reference to natural causal law in especially high esteem. Our problem is going to be how, given the availability of mechanistic explanation, psychological explanations can still apply. That is, given the availability of explanation of human behaviour, by reference to physical (or neurophysiological) laws, can mental states still constitute causes of behaviour This problem has become very well defined since a series of papers authored by Donald Davidson who showed, very clearly, how the problem arises given the following three principles : (i) the Principle of Causal Interaction which holds that mental states interact causally with physical states. (2) the Principle of the Nomological Character of Causality which states that events related as cause and effect fall under strict laws and (3) the Principle of the Anomalism of the Mental which states that there are no strict laws, known or unknown, on the basis of which the mental can be predicted and explained. A central feature of Davidson s philosophy is (3) and one of the most significant sections of this thesis will concern why Davidson formulates (3) as a principle. We need to understand Davidson s arguments for (3) if we are to gain a proper understanding of how he derives the token-identity thesis from (I), (2) and (3). This is important for our purpose here since the latter part of this essay will be an examination of the token-identity thesis as a proposed solution to the problem of mental causation


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    The Lake Atitlan Basin of highland Guatemala boasted fertile soils and was rich in natural resources, making it an attractive area for permanent settlement. However, the region lacked a number of important items, such as salt, cotton, and obsidian, all of which had to be obtained through trade. Good agricultural land was also scarce in certain parts of the lake and the steep hillslopes were easily eroded, making it necessary for communities to maintain access to emergency supplies of corn. Lake Atitlan’s communities were therefore highly dependent on exchanges with neighboring groups who occupied contrasting ecological zones, especially those in the Pacific Coast. However, the Pacific piedmont was a corridor of interregional trade and a source of valuable goods such as cacao; factors which made it a focus of political contestation and instability. Additionally, the lower coast appears to have been vulnerable to episodes of drought, prompting periodic migrations to higher altitudes. All of these factors must have made it challenging for the communities of Lake Atitlan to maintain access to the resources they needed, and therefore to sustain their way of life. And while there is currently no evidence to suggest a collapse or abandonment of the lake, the majority of the existing data comes from a small number of sites concentrated near the southern shore and the lack of rural settlement data makes it impossible to assess the impact that broad scale political, economic, and environmental changes had on the general population of the lake and their internal organization. The Lake Atitlan Archaeological Project (PALA) set out to rectify this situation by generating systematic settlement and ceramic data for an important sub-region of the lake, namely the southwestern shore. The current dissertation combines the data generated by this project with data from previous investigations, to provide a more comprehensive synthesis of the cultural-historic development of the lake and to place this development in its broader Mesoamerican context. Drawing on resilience and world systems concepts, the two main questions that I set out to answer in this dissertation are: How did Lake Atitlan’s socio-cultural systems adapt to broad scale fluctuations in the Mesoamerican world system, and, did these adaptations succeed in producing a more resilient society

    The Rotating Quantum Thermal Distribution

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    We show that the rigidly rotating quantum thermal distribution on flat space-time suffers from a global pathology which can be cured by introducing a cylindrical mirror if and only if it has a radius smaller than that of the speed-of-light cylinder. When this condition is met, we demonstrate numerically that the renormalized expectation value of the energy-momentum stress tensor corresponds to a rigidly rotating thermal bath up to a finite correction except on the mirror where there are the usual Casimir divergences.Comment: 8 pages, 2 PostScript figure
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