The Fragmented Mind
Funded by FWF: P 27587
Head of Project: Univ.-Prof. Dr. Marian David
Start: 01 April 2015
End: 31 March 2018
This project will investigate and develop the hypothesis that the human mind – belief in particular – is fragmented; it will use this hypothesis to solve a number of outstanding problems and puzzles in philosophy. Fragmentation (regarding belief) holds that a single agent has various separate systems of belief, which need not make for a logically consistent and deductively closed overall system. That is, an agent may have a number of beliefs in one fragment, while having other beliefs in another fragment, without drawing connections between these fragments. The contrary view – a dogma widely adhered to in philosophy that also underlies many formal models of belief and decision-making – has it that the human mind is unified: that a single agent's total belief set is consistent and includes its deductive consequences. This assumption of unity faces grave problems:
(i) As a descriptive thesis, it is a blatant mischaracterization of the reality of human belief and its connection to agency; it is easy to show that real agents are not always consistent in their beliefs and do not believe all the deductive consequences of their beliefs.
(ii) As a normative thesis about ideal rationality, unity leads to notorious problems and paradoxes, such as the preface paradox, the problem of deduction and – we argue – Frege’s puzzle. The aim of the project is to develop a psychologically substantive theory of fragmentation. The project proposes to offer a viable alternative to the dogma of unity, thus solving a variety of prominent puzzle cases that beset both descriptive and normative versions of unity. It will thereby (a) shape and significantly advance an important new research area – fragmentation; (b) contribute to solving a number of perennial problems in philosophy of mind, epistemology, and philosophy of language; and (c) bring together and relate the isolated debates in which these problems have been treated.