The 'theory theory' of mind and the aims of Sellars' original myth of Jones

Recent proponents of the ‘theory theory’ of mind often trace its roots back to Wilfrid Sellars’ famous ‘myth of Jones’ in his 1956 article, ‘Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind’. Sellars developed an account of the intersubjective basis of our knowledge of the inner mental states of both self and others, an account which included the claim that such knowledge is in some sense theoretical knowledge. This paper examines the nature of this claim in Sellars’ original account and its relationship to more recent debates concerning ‘theory of mind’, in particular the theory theory. A close look reveals that Sellars’ original view embodied several distinctions that would enable more recent theory theorists to accommodate certain phenomenological objections that have been raised against that outlook. At the heart of the philosophical issue is an overlooked complexity involved in Sellars’ account of the ‘theory/observation’ distinction, involving a conception of the distinction that is both independently plausible and a key to the issue in dispute.
Keywords Theory theory  Sellars  Phenomenology  Functionalism  Theory of mind  Observation  Perception
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DOI 10.1007/s11097-011-9250-y
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