Belief, opinion and consciousness

Andy Clark*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The paper considers two recent accounts of the difference between human and animal thought. One deflationary account, due to Daniel Dennett, insists that the only real difference lies in our ability to use words and sentences to give artificial precision and determinacy to our mental contents. The other, due to Paul Smolensky, conjectures that we at times deploy a special purpose device (the Conscious Rule Interpreter) whose task is to deal with public, symbolically coded data and commands. Both these accounts make a crucial error. They offer what is in effect an extra top-level processor to soothe our realist/classical prejudices. But in each case the extra ingredient turns out to be explanatorily hollow. Appealing to language use and language processing alone mistakes a cognitive effect for a cognitive cause. I argue instead that we need to seek a more profound architectural condition which may ground our conscious linguistic abilities but also explains a variety of deeper facts. I sketch a picture which seems to meet those needs and draw out its implications for the debates about belief and about classical Artificial Intelligence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-154
Number of pages16
JournalPhilosophical Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1990
Externally publishedYes

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