Location: Bowdoin / Bowdoin Books / Tropical Zion / Reviews

Bowdoin Books

Reviews of Teleological Realism 

"For over forty years, the orthodox view in the philosophy of mind has been that common-sense psychological explanations of human actions are causal explanations. In his lucid and elegant monograph, Scott Sehon challenges this orthodoxy. Sehon develops a detailed and original argument against the main assumptions of the causal view and outlines his own 'teleological realist' alternative. This is one of the strongest recent defenses of the non-causal view, and it deserves to be taken seriously by all philosophers of mind and action. In addition to being a new and first-rate piece of philosophical research, Sehon's book is so clearly written that it can be fruitfully used as a graduate or upper-level undergraduate text." —Tim Crane, Department of Philosophy, University College London

"Since Davidson published 'Action, Reasons, and Causes,' the view that common-sense psychological explanations are causal explanations has become nearly a dogma in the philosophy of mind and action. Teleological Realism mounts an impressive case against this dogma, showing that the causalist accounts are far from adequate. Sehon suggests that we replace causalism with teleological realism, the view that common-sense psychological explanations explain solely by citing the purpose of the action. In doing so he makes a compelling case for a view that has been all but overlooked in the philosophical literature. This is doubtless a first-rate book and required reading for all philosophers working in this area. But Sehon also writes in a clear and engaging style that makes Teleological Realism accessible to anyone interested in the topic." —Sergio Tenenbaum, Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto

In this lucid and well-written work, Scott Sehon addresses the longstanding issue of how to reconcile our common-sense conception of ourselves as agents with the scientific picture of the world. Sehon argues that common-sense psychology is neither reducible to physical science nor is it in competition with physical science. Rather, it provides an independent, but equally legitimate mode of understanding and explanation. Common-sense psychology is distinctive in that it provides teleological, rather than causal, explanations of behavior. [Read more] Sara Worley, Bowling Green State University

Commonsense psychology explains human behavior in terms of mental states such as beliefs and desires.  Telemachus traveled to Sparta because he wanted to find Odysseus and believed he could do so by talking with Menelaus, who lived there, and who was rumored to have been the last person to see Odysseus and his men. Two things seem implicit in such commonsense psychology: that the attributed mental states are real, and that the kind of explanation being invoked is causal. Thus... [Read more.] —Scott Walden, Ph.D., Metapsychology Online Reviews

About Teleological Realism

Author
Allen Wells

Scott Sehon is a Professor of Philosophy at Bowdoin College. He earned an A.B. in Philosophy from Harvard University in 1986 and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Princeton University in 1994.

» Scott Sehon's faculty page

Reviews

"For over forty years, the orthodox view in the philosophy of mind has been that common-sense psychological explanations of human actions are causal explanations. In his lucid and elegant monograph, Scott Sehon challenges this orthodoxy... [read more]" —Tim Crane, Department of Philosophy, University College London

» More reviews

Read an excerpt

» Chapter 1: The Mystery [PDF] (40 KB, 11 pp.)

Book details

Publisher: MIT Press, 2005
Pages: 257 pages

ISBN-10: 0-262-19535-6
ISBN-13: 978-0-262-19535-5

Purchase the book

» The MIT Press
» Amazon
» Barnes & Noble