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Fay General Laws And Explaining Human Behaviour Notes

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Brian Fay - General Laws and Explaining Human Behaviour




Three theses of essay:
* explanations of behaviour in terms of its reasons rest upon general laws because such explanations are causal in nature
* it is unlikely that these general laws are statable in the intentionalist vocabulary of the social sciences
* the social sciences must be genuinely theoretical if they are to be viable Despite the fact that general laws cannot be stated conventionally, there remains a viable theoretical science of human behaviour - critical theory Singularity thesis claims that reason-explanations can account for human behaviour without implying general laws This thesis is supported by two arguments
* the logical-connection argument claims that behaviour is explained by principles of actions, and that there is a logical relation between the outcome and the principle, rather than a general, recurring pattern. It claims that explanation involves specifying the reasons that rationalise an action
# but there is a difference between there being 'a' reason you might act and 'the' reason that actually motivates you to act
# so the argument is only successful insofar as the given reasons actually motivate
- they may be sufficient but not necessary, or necessary but not sufficient. So they must actually motivate i.e. be causal
* BOTH Humean 'constant conjunction' and the supposedly non-lawlike realist 'causal mechanism' theory assume general laws - in the latter case, because if it were not outline under precisely which conditions the mechanism is applicable, it would not be a full explanation
* BOTH also rely upon generalizations - for Humeans, causal explanations are a type of generalization, for realists, generalizations indicate the existence of mechanisms
* the essential-nature argument claims that a good explanation of a phenomena relies upon an account of the nature of the entities involved
# e.g.. in the case of a practical reasoning process, an action can be explained by the nature of the decision making process - given this, the specific action was inevitable
# we don't need to reformulate a particular instance into a generalization with the use of substitute letters like x, y and z
# This is because reasoning can be functional - e.g. someone dances because they seek to dance
# for this reason we tend to be interested in the conditions under which the function doesn't operate
# functional characterizations are so because we see order in them and hence assume general laws can describe them. thus the essential nature argument fails. fucking duh. So, reason-explanations view actions as the causal outcome of mental events. Because they are causal and causal explanations are essentially nomological, reason-explanations rest implicitly on

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