From folk psychology to folk epistemology: The status of radical simulation

In this paper I consider one of the leading philosophic-psychological theories of “folk psychology,” the simulation theory of Robert Gordon. According to Gordon, we attribute mental states to others not by representing those states or by applying the generalizations of theory, but by imagining ourselves in the position of a target to be interpreted and exploiting our own decision-making skills to make assertions which we then attribute to others as ‘beliefs’. I describe a leading objections to Gordon’s theory—the problem of adjustment—and show how a charitably interpreted Gordon could answer this objection. I conclude, however, that the best case for Gordon’s position still runs into a new problem concerning the epistemological presuppositions of belief-attribution. This suggests a new account of folk psychological explanation that draws on children’s basic folk epistemological knowledge. Identifying this new alternative helps undermine the simplicity of a theory based on simulation-based explanation.
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