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Alvarez, Maria, , . Kinds of Reasons: An Essay in the Philosophy of Action
2010, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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Added by: Jie Gao, Contributed by:

Publisher’s Note: Understanding human beings and their distinctive rational and volitional capacities is one of the central tasks of philosophy. The task requires a clear account of such things as reasons, desires, emotions and motives, and of how they combine to produce and explain human behaviour. In Kinds of Reasons, Maria Alvarez offers a fresh and incisive treatment of these issues, focusing in particular on reasons as they feature in contexts of agency. Her account builds on some important recent work in the area; but she takes her main inspiration from the tradition that receives its seminal contemporary expression in the writings of G.E.M. Anscombe, a tradition that runs counter to the broadly Humean orthodoxy that has dominated the theory of action for the past forty years. Alvarez’s conclusions are therefore likely to be controversial; and her bold and painstaking arguments will be found provocative by participants on every side of the debates with which she engages. Clear and directly written, Kinds of Reasons aims to stake out a distinctive position within one of the most hotly contested areas of contemporary philosophy.

Comment: This book is on the ontological nature of reasons for which we act carries on. The first two chapters are very good introductory readings on reasons broadly. Chapters 3 to 5 explore the connection between reasons and motivation. Topics include what motivates actions, whether desires are motivating reasons, and whether motivating reasons are belief. They are proper introductory reading material for courses on ethics, reasons and philosophy of action.

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Gendler, Tamar Szabó, , . Alief and Belief
2008, Journal of Philosophy 105 (10): 634-663.
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Abstract: I introduce and argue for the importance of a cognitive state that I call alief. Paradigmatic alief can be characterized as a mental state with associatively-linked content that is representational, affective and behavioral, and that is activated – consciously or unconsciously – by features of the subject’s internal or ambient environment. Alief is a more primitive state than either belief or imagination: it directly activates behavioral response patterns (as opposed to motivating in conjunction with desire or pretended desire.) I argue that alief explains a large number of otherwise perplexing phenomena and plays a far larger role in causing behavior than has typically been recognized by philosophers. I argue further that the notion can be invoked to explain both the effectiveness and the limitations of certain sorts of example-based reasoning, and that it lies at the core of habit-based views of ethics.

Comment: In this influential paper, Gendler argues for the existence of an important cognitive states that she calls alief. It is a highly-relevant material for teachings on many topics, for example forms of belief, rationality and belief, varieties of irrationality, implicit bias and etc, in upper-division undergraduate courses and postgraduate courses.

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Gendler, Tamar Szabó, , . Alief in Action (and Reaction)
2008, Mind and Language 23 (5): 552- 585
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Abstract: I introduce and argue for the importance of a cognitive state that I call alief. An alief is, to a reasonable approximation, an innate or habitual propensity to respond to an apparent stimulus in a particular way. Recognizing the role that alief plays in our cognitive repertoire provides a framework for understanding reactions that are governed by nonconscious or automatic mechanisms, which in turn brings into proper relief the role played by reactions that are subject to conscious regulation and deliberate control.

Comment: This is an introductory paper on alief. It provides an account of alief and argues for its role in governing non-conscious or automatic actions. The paper is useful for teachings on philosophy of action, mental attitudes, moral philosophy, social psychology, etc.

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Gendler, Tamar Szabó, , . On the Epistemic Costs of Implicit Bias
2011, Philosophical Studies 156 (1): 33-63.
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Summary: Tamar Gendler argues that, for those living in a society in which race is a salient sociological feature, it is impossible to be fully rational: members of such a society must either fail to encode relevant information containing race, or suffer epistemic costs by being implicitly racist.

Comment: In this paper, Gendler argues that there is an epistemic costs for being racists. It is a useful material for teachings on philosophy of bias, social psychology, epistemology and etc. Note that there are two nice comments on this paper: one is Andy Egan (2011) "Comments on Gendler's 'the epistemic costs of implicit bias', the other is Joshua Mugg (2011) "What are the cognitive costs of racism? a reply to Gendler". Those two papers can be used togehter with Gendler's paper in increasing a dynamic of debate.

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Hieronymi, Pamela, , . Controlling Attitudes
2006, Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 87 (1):45-74
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Lizzy Ventham

Abstract: I hope to show that, although belief is subject to two quite robust forms of agency, “believing at will” is impossible; one cannot believe in the way one ordinarily acts. Further, the same is true of intention: although intention is subject to two quite robust forms of agency, the features of belief that render believing less than voluntary are present for intention, as well. It turns out, perhaps surprisingly, that you can no more intend at will than believe at will.

Comment: I find this paper to be a valuable addition to classes on implicit biases, reasons, and moral psychology. It provides a good basis for discussion on how these topics relate to free will, and what sorts of control (and responsibilities) we have over our mental lives - including our desires, our beliefs, and other thoughts.

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Nagel, Jennifer, , . Epistemic Intuitions
2007, Philosophy Compass 2(6): 792-819.
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Abstract: We naturally evaluate the beliefs of others, sometimes by deliberate calculation, and sometimes in a more immediate fashion. Epistemic intuitions are immediate assessments arising when someone’s condition appears to fall on one side or the other of some significant divide in epistemology. After giving a rough sketch of several major features of epistemic intuitions, this article reviews the history of the current philosophical debate about them and describes the major positions in that debate. Linguists and psychologists also study epistemic assessments; the last section of the paper discusses some of their research and its potential relevance to epistemology.

Comment: This is a good introductory article on epistemic intuitions (intuitions interesting to epistemologists). It is useful for teachings on epistemology, philosophical methodology and experimental philosophy.

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Nagel, Jennifer, , . Knowledge: A Very Short Introduction
2014, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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Publisher’s Note: Human beings naturally desire knowledge. But what is knowledge? Is it the same as having an opinion? Highlighting the major developments in the theory of knowledge from Ancient Greece to the present day, Jennifer Nagel uses a number of simple everyday examples to explore the key themes and current debates of epistemology.

Comment: As a contribution to the Oxford "very short introduction" seriers, this book is written to general public. This introductory book stands out due to its clarity, accessibility and coverage of topics. It might fall short of being a proper textbook for an epistemology course, but it constitutes a very good reading for all new-comers to epistemology. So it might be recommended as a further reading for a lower level undergraduate courses on epistemology or as an introduction to philosophy.

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Patterson, Sarah, , . The explanatory role of belief ascriptions
1990, Philosophical Studies 59 (3):313-32.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Simon Fokt

Abstract: The aim of this paper is to argue that belief ascription in common- sense discourse is not uniformly non-individualistic, as Burge’s conclusion suggests. (In concentrating on belief ascriptions I follow the usual practice of treating belief as the paradigm propositional attitude.) I shall present some examples which suggest that when giving common-sense explanations of action we do not individuate thoughts with reference to agents’ linguistic environment in the manner indicated by Burge’s thought-experiment. The challenge supposedly presented to the Continuity Thesis by Burge’s thought-experiment is thus removed. I then discuss whether the mode of individuation characteristic of our explanatory practice deserves to be called individualistic, and conclude with some remarks on the expressibility of thought contents.

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Shah, Nishi, , . How Truth Governs Belief
2003, Philosophical Review 112 (4): 447-482.
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Abstract: Why, when asking oneself whether to believe that p, must one immediately recognize that this question is settled by, and only by, answering the question whether p is true? Truth is not an optional end for first-personal doxastic deliberation, providing an instrumental or extrinsic reason that an agent may take or leave at will. Otherwise there would be an inferential step between discovering the truth with respect to p and determining whether to believe that p, involving a bridge premise that it is good (in whichever sense of good one likes, moral, prudential, aesthetic, allthings-considered, etc.) to believe the truth with respect to p. But there is no such gap between the two questions within the first-personal deliberative perspective; the question whether to believe that p seems to collapse into the question whether p is true.

Comment: This text will be most useful in advanced Epistemology, Philosophy of Mind, Metaethics and Philosophy of Action classes. The core argument of should be manageable for students who have read a bit of epistemology/metaethics/mind, but substantial familiarity with these areas is necessary to get the paper as a whole. The paper is also valuable for its critique of Alan Gibbard’s noncognitivist account of normative judgments and J. David Velleman’s teleological account of truth’s normative governance of belief (Diversifying Syllabi).

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Taylor, Kenneth A., , . Narrow content functionalism and the mind-body problem
1989, Noûs 23(3): 355-72.
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Summary: Narrow content functionalism claims that the contents of beliefs are determined by their causal profile. If two belief tokens are of the same causal type, they are of the same semantic type. However, Taylor argues that de dicto semantic types do not supervene on causal types, due to multiple realizability. He establishes this with the thought experiment of “fraternal twin earth”, where things are functionally identical but molecularily different.

Comment: This paper shows how Putnam's "twin earth" thought experiment needs to be modified to address narrow content functionalism. Suited to higher-level mind and language courses. Best taught after some more introductory readings on the topic, as those not already familiar with some of the elements may become lost.

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