I’m happy to kick off our latest Mind & Language symposium on Bence Nanay’s “The Role of Imagination in Decision-Making,” from the journal’s February 2016 issue, with commentaries by Amy Kind (Claremont McKenna ) and Neil Van Leeuwen (Georgia State).
The psychological process of decision-making is often explained in terms of an agent’s beliefs and desires (or other pro-attitudes): practical reasoning is essentially a matter of estimating the probability of desire-satisfaction for each action in a set of possible actions in light of relevant background beliefs. In his article, Bence points to a number of empirical findings about how human beings actually make decisions that seem to conflict with the belief-desire model. He also argues that the belief-desire model overintellectualizes the decision-making process: “Animals and preverbal infants perceive and perform actions. Should we assume then that each time they perform a perceptually guided action, they go through the appropriate beliefs and desires? Further, arguably, most of our own actions are also largely akin to those of animals: when we tie our shoelaces or brush our teeth, these actions are also unlikely to be mediated by propositional attitudes like beliefs and desires” (127).
Bence’s aim is to outline an alternative model that is consistent with empirical findings and that does not attach theoretical priority to beliefs and desires. Instead, his model emphasizes the role that imagination plays in practical reasoning: when we decide between two possible actions, we imagine ourselves in the situation that we imagine to be the outcome of these two actions and then compare these two imaginings.
Comments on this post will be open for at least a couple of weeks. Many thanks to Bence, Amy, and Neil. All of us here at the Brains Blog are grateful to Sam Guttenplan, the other Mind & Language editors, and the staff at Wiley-Blackwell (especially Carmen Sherry) for their continued support of these symposia!
You can learn more about Bence and his research here.
Below there are links to a video introduction, the target article, commentaries, and Bence’s replies.
Target Article: Bence Nanay, “The Role of Imagination in Decision-Making“
Bence’s video introduction:
Commentaries and Replies
- Amy Kind, “Unconscious Imagination and the Imagination-Model of Decision-Making“
- Neil Van Leeuwen, “Partially Doxastic Imaginings“
- Bence Nanay, Replies to Kind and Van Leeuwen