philosophy, analytic philosophy, history of philosophy


Bernard Bolzano's philosophy of mind is closely related to his metaphysical conceptions of substance, adherence and force. Questions as to how the mind is working are treated in terms of efficient (causal) faculties producing simple and complex representations, conclusive and non-conclusive judgments, and meta-representational attitudes such as believing and knowing. My paper outlines the proximity of Bolzano's account of "mental forces" to contemporary accounts of faculty psychology such as Modularity Theory and Simple Heuristics. While the modularist notions of domain specificity and encapsulated mental faculties align with Bolzano's allotment of domain specific tasks to correspondingly specified psychological forces (e.g. judging to "judgmental force", inferring to "inferential force" etc.), the emphasis of Simple Heuristics on accurate "fast and frugal" processes aligns with Bolzano's views regarding cognitive resources and the importance of epistemic economy. The paper attempts to show how Bolzano's metaphysics of mind supposes a conception of bound rationality that determines his epistemology. Combining the rationalist concern for epistemic agent responsibility in the pursuit of knowledge with a strong confidence in the reliability of causal processes to generate the right beliefs, his epistemology shows close affinities with contemporary Virtue Epistemology. According to Virtue Epistemology, knowledge requires that true beliefs be generated by reliable processes typical of a virtuous character. The thesis that Bolzano anticipates virtue epistemological considerations is corroborated by his discussion of heuristic principles that set the norms for the acquisition of knowledge. The paper explores possible relations between such principles and the presumed low-level heuristics of cognitive processes.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


Berg, Jan. 1976. ‘Bolzanos Metaphysik’. In G. Oberkofler & E. Zlabinger (eds.) ‘Ost-WestBegegnung in Österreich: Festschrift für E. Winter’, 27–33. Wien: Böhlau.

Bolzano, Bernard. 1834. Lehrbuch der Religionswissenschaft. Sulzbach: Seidel.

Bolzano, Bernard. 1837. Wissenschaftslehre. Versuch einer ausführlichen und grösstentheils neuen Darstellung der Logik, mit steter Rücksicht auf deren bisherige Bearbeiter. Sulzbach: Seidel. [WL].

Bolzano, Bernard. 1851. Paradoxien des Unendlichen. Leipzig: Reclam.

Carruthers, Peter. 2006. ‘Simple heuristics meet massive modularity’. In S. Laurence & S. Stich P. Carruthers (eds.) ‘The Innate Mind (vol. 2): Culture and Cognition’, 181–198. Oxford: OUP.

Chisholm, Roderick. 1991. ‘Bernard Bolzano’s Philosophy of Mind’. Philosophical Topics 19, no. 2: 205–214.

Fodor, Jerry. 1983. The Modularity of Mind: An Essay on Faculty Psychology. Cambridge (Mass.): MIT Press.

Gigerenzer, Gerd & Todd, Peter (eds.). 1999. Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart. New York, NY: OUP.

Greco, John. 2003. ‘Knowledge as Credit for True Belief’. In M. DePaul & L. Zagzebski (eds.) ‘Intellectual Virtue. Perspectives from Ethics and Epistemology’, 111–134. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Hookway, Christopher. 2003. ‘How to be a Virtue Epistemologist’. In M. DePaul & L. Zagzebski (eds.) ‘Intellectual Virtue. Perspectives from Ethics and Epistemology’, 183–202. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Künne, Wolfgang. 1997. ‘Propositions in Bolzano and Frege’. In M. Siebel & M. Textor W. Künne (eds.) ‘Bolzano and Analytic Philosophy (= Grazer philosophische Studien, 53)’, 203–248. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

Lehrer, Keith. 1997. Self-Trust – A Study of Reason, Knowledge, and Autonomy. Oxford: OUP.

Lehrer, Keith. 2001. ‘Individualism, Communitarianism and Consensus’. The Journal of Ethics 5: 105–120.

Samuels, Richard. 2005. ‘The Complexity of Cognition. Tractability Arguments for Massive Modularity’. In S. Laurence, S. Stich & P. Carruthers (eds.) ‘The Innate Mind (vol. 1): Structure and Contents’, 107–121. Oxford: OUP.

Sebestik, Jan. 1992. Logique et Mathématique chez Bernard Bolzano. Paris: Vrin.

Sebestik, Jan. 1999. ‘Forme, variation et déductibilité dans la logique de Bolzano’. Revue d’histoire des sciences 52, no. 3-4: 479–506.

Siebel, Mark. 1996. Der Begriff der Ableitbarkeit bei Bolzano. St. Augustin: Academia Verlag.

Tatzel, Armin. 2002. ‘Bolzano’s Theory of Ground and Consequence’. Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 43, no. 1: 1–25.

Thagard, Paul. 1998. Mind: Introduction to Cognitive Science. Cambridge (Mass.): The MIT Press.

Zagzebski, Linda. 2000. ‘From Reliabilism to Virtue Epistemology’. In G. Axtell (ed.) ‘Knowledge, Belief, and Character – Readings in Virtue Epistemology’, 113–122. Lanham/Boulder/NY/Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield.