Most recent Anglophone philosophers appear to favor what I will call architectural accounts of the attitudes. On such accounts, what is essential to possessing an attitude is that one be in some particular type of physical or biological state or that one possess some particular piece of cognitive architecture. On such an account, to have an attitude such as belief or desire might, for example, be to possess an internal representation of a certain sort, perhaps poised to play a particular cognitive role; or it might be a matter of being in a brain state of a certain sort. On my view, in contrast, such architectural facts should be regarded as matters of implementation only, not essence. What matters to having an attitude is instead, I suggest, that one live a certain way -- that across a wide range of actual and counterfactual circumstances, one is disposed to act and react, both inwardly and outwardly, in patterns that we would folk-psychologically tend to regard as characteristic of someone who possesses that attitude.
Call whatever architectural condition is essential to having Attitude A, on one of the architecturally-based views, Architectural Condition C. Unless Architectural Condition C just is the condition of being disposed to act and react, inwardly and outwardly, in the pattern characteristic of Attitude A, then presumably it is conceivable that Architectural Condition C could be possessed by a person who lacks the such a suite of dispositions, or such a suite of dispositions could be possessed by a person who lacks Architectural Condition C. What should we say about such cases? Let’s consider two.
One: Andi, let’s suppose, is in Architectural Condition C for the belief that giraffes are born six feet tall. Colorfully, we might imagine that a 22nd century brain scanner finds in her Belief Box a slip of paper containing the sentence, in the Language of Thought, “giraffes are born six feet tall”. Or maybe the giraffe neuron is linked to the six-feet-tall neuron is linked to the birth-size neuron. Despite this architectural fact, however, Andi is not at all inclined to act and react in the usual way. She is not at all disposed, for example, to say that baby giraffes are six feet tall. If asked explicitly, she would say giraffes are probably born no more than three feet tall. If shown a picture of a giraffe as tall as an ordinary man she would assume it’s not a newborn. If a zookeeper were to tell Andi that giraffes are born six feet tall, Andi would be surprised and would say, “Really? I had thought they were born much smaller than that!” And so forth, robustly, across a wide range of actual and counterfactual circumstances. None of these facts about Andi are due to the presence of weird factors like guns to her head or manipulation of evil neuroscientists or a bizarre network of other attitudes like thinking that “three” means six. (See also my post on Mad Belief.)
Two: Tomorrow, aliens from Beta Hydri arrive. The BetaHydrians show all signs of valuing molybdenum over gold. They will trade ounce for ounce, with no apparent hesitation. When they list metal prices in their currency, they list the price of molybdenum higher than the price of gold. They learn English, and then they say things like “in BetaHydrian culture, molybdenum is more valuable than gold.” And so forth. Suppose, too, that BetaHydrians have conscious experiences. There is a kind of swelling they feel in their shoulders when they obtain things for which they have been striving. They translate this feeling into English as “the pleasure of success”. They experience this swelling feeling when they successfully trade away their gold for molybdenum. Like us, they have eyes sensitive to the visible spectrum, and like us they have visual imagery. They entertain visual imagery of returning to Beta Hydri loaded with molybdenum and of the accolades they will receive. Pleasurable feelings accompany such imagery. They plan ways to obtain molybdenum, at the cost of gold if that’s what it takes. They judge other BetaHydrians’ molybdenum-for-gold trades as wisely done. Etc. Ordinary people around Earth find it eminently natural to say that BetaHydrians value molybdenum over gold. But we know nothing yet about BetaHydrian biology or cognitive architecture, except that whatever it is can support this pattern of action, thought, and feeling. Whatever Architectural Condition C is, if we can coherently conceive its coming apart from the dispositional patterns above, the patterns characteristic of valuing molybdenum over gold, then suppose Architectural Condition C is not met. If we may conceive the physically impossible, we might even imagine that the BetaHydrians robustly, intrinsically, durably, and non-accidentally exhibit these behavioral and cognitive and phenomenological patterns, across a wide range of possible worlds, despite being made entirely of undifferentiated balsa wood. (See also my post on Betelgeusian Beeheads.)
If we are at liberty to choose an approach to the attitudes that is practically useful and that gets right what we care about in ascribing attitudes, we should choose an approach that says that BetaHydrians value molybdenum over gold and that Andi does not believe that giraffes are born six feet tall. The lived patterns are what matters, not, except derivatively, the underlying architecture.