In this chapter I will offer a pair of arguments for the (CRT), the first aimed at defending the claim that folk psychology contains obligation-satisfying clauses, and the second aimed at defending the claim that folk psychology contains obligation-imposing clauses. As a way of crystallizing what exactly an argument in favor of the (CRT) needs to establish, it will be helpful to imagine a very specific opponent of the thesis. Let’s imagine a causal functionalist who denies that normative properties can be given a causal analysis, and so who takes each of the clauses in folk psychology to be causal in nature without also being normative. I don’t want us to suppose that this causal functionalist is a normative eliminativist. In fact, I want us to suppose that she holds that a mental state’s normative properties – including those normative properties which the (CRT) assigns to mental states essentially – supervene on the causal role her causal functionalist theory assigns to mental states.
The reason to call attention to this specific sort of causal functionalist is because she and the defender of the (CRT) will (or at least can) agree regarding which mental states all possible subjects are in. Where the two will disagree is strictly on what grounds subjects’ being in the mental states they are. So, for instance, the causal functionalist we’re imagining and the defender of the (CRT) might agree that the subject S in the world w believes that snow is white. However, while the defender of the (CRT) will hold that S’s having this belief partly depends on her possessing certain normative properties – for instance, on S’s being such that she believes many of the things she ought to believe given that snow is white – the causal functionalist will hold that S’s having this belief doesn’t depend in any way on her possessing these normative properties, but rather depends entirely on the causal relations S’s states enter into. Now, this causal functionalist can add, since normative properties supervene on causal roles, it follows that any possible subject who’s in a state standing in these causal relations will possess the normative properties in question. So, for instance, any such subject will believes many of the things she ought to believe given that snow is white. But the possession of these normative properties is no part of the account of what it is for a subject like S to believe that snow is white. Possession of these normative properties is merely something that always (across all possible worlds) happens to accompany believing that snow is white.
Reflection on this view should help us appreciate two things. First, if causal functionalism (at least about belief states) isn’t crazy, then the (CRT) isn’t crazy either. Or at least, the (CRT) can’t be too crazy. After all, even though the causal functionalist we’ve been considering rejects the (CRT), her view is still modally equivalent to the (CRT). Given this modal equivalence, there would seem to be a lower threshold on just how implausible she can regard the (CRT) as being. In light of this first point, we can see that many of the considerations often used to support causal functionalism will also support the (CRT) as well. I won’t be focusing on these considerations here just because they don’t uniquely support the (CRT).
Second, and following up on this first point, any argument seeking to establish the truth of the (CRT) will need to be a very precise tool if it’s to do its job. Given the modal equivalence in question, an argument for the (CRT) won’t have established everything it needs to establish merely by showing that the (CRT) correctly handles all possible cases. Correctly handling all possible cases would certainly speak in the (CRT)’s favor, but it would fail to differentiate the (CRT) from the modally equivalent version of causal functionalism we’ve been considering. It wouldn’t speak in favor of the (CRT) to the exclusion of all other theories.
This second point imposes a severe constraint on the form that my arguments in favor of the (CRT) can take. I need arguments that not only speak in favor of the (CRT), but also that speak against the form of causal functionalism we’ve been considering (among other views).67 The two arguments I provide in the present chapter aim to do this.