It Ain’t Necessarily So

  • K. V. Wilkes


Psychology often surprises us; moreover, it is a discipline which attracts many people to its banner. It is difficult to see how it could do either if the burden of Smedslund’s central thesis were correct. I believe that he is wrong, although the issues he raises are of great interest and importance; I shall work my way toward my main argument by discussing a couple of points with which I am in at least partial agreement.


Common Sense Natural Kind Ordinary Language Precise Meaning True Proposition 
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  1. 2.
    Most realists would accept some version of this view, although many would want to abjure talk of necessity. It is Kripke, of course, who is primarily responsible for the revival of essentialist ideas; see his ‘Naming and Necessity,’ in D. Davidson and G. Harman (Eds.), Semantics of Natural Language (Dordrecht, Holland: D. Reidel, 1972, pp. 253–355).Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    I provide such an argument in The Autonomy of Psychology (forthcoming).Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    I find it hard to believe that Smedslund means to include all propositions of commonsense psychology in the category “noncontingent,” as his iized definition suggests; what, for instance, of “He cold-shouldered John because of his jealousy”? I assume he means general propositions.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    I have expanded on this point in a number of places, most recently in “Functionalism, Psychology and the Philosophy of Mind,” Philosophical Topics, 1981, 12,147–167. See also the excellent work by G. Mandler and W. Kessen, The Language of Psychology (New York: Wiley, 1959).Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    It will be clear that I am assuming that a tenable distinction can be drawn between theoretical and observational statements; this needs argument, but I think it can be done.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    J. A. Gray, Elements of a Two-Process Theory of Learning (London: Academic Press, 1975), p. 347.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    See also D. Dennett, “Intentional Systems,” Journal of Philosophy, 1971, 68, 87–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. V. Wilkes
    • 1
  1. 1.St. Hilda’s CollegeOxford UniversityOxfordEngland

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