Folk psychology without principles: an alternative to the belief-desire model of action interpretation

Philosophical Explorations 13 (3):257-274 (2011)
In this paper, we take issue with the belief?desire model of second- and third-person action interpretation as it is presented by both theory theories and cognitivist versions of simulation theory. These accounts take action interpretation to consist in the (tacit) attribution of proper belief?desire pairs that mirror the structure of formally valid practical inferences. We argue that the belief?desire model rests on the unwarranted assumption that the interpreter can only reach the agent's practical context of action through inference. This assumption betrays a deep-seated bias toward disengaged, observational interpretation strategies. On our alternative picture, the interpreter can start off on the assumption of a shared practical context and proceed to reason discourse in those cases in which this assumption runs aground. Following Brandom's non-formalist account of reason discourse, we suggest that interpreting other people's actions in terms of reasons is not a matter of following the principles of formally valid practical syllogisms, but of endorsing practical material inferences that are correct in virtue of a shared practical world
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    Donald Davidson (1963). Actions, Reasons, and Causes. Journal of Philosophy 60 (23):685-700.

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