Theory of mind and the unobservability of other minds

Philosophical Explorations 17 (2):203-222 (2014)
  Copy   BIBTEX


The theory of mind (ToM) framework has been criticised by emerging alternative accounts. Each alternative begins with the accusation that ToM's validity as a research paradigm rests on the assumption of the ‘unobservability’ of other minds. We argue that the critics' discussion of the unobservability assumption (UA) targets a straw man. We discuss metaphysical, phenomenological, epistemological, and psychological readings of UA and demonstrate that it is not the case that ToM assumes the metaphysical, phenomenological, or epistemological claims. However, ToM supports the psychological UA as a claim about cognitive processes responsible for mindreading. The latter can be interpreted as a claim that (a) neither the other's ‘mindedness’ in general nor the other's particular mental states are observable (i.e. apprehended perceptually); (b) particular mental states are unobservable, whereas some aspects indicative of ‘mindedness’ are observable; (c) some mental states are unobservable but some are also observable. Whereas the critics tend to attribute (a) to ToM, most ToM accounts actually take positions (b) or (c). We conclude that the allegations against ToM for positing UA are seriously misdirected. We further bring out an important stipulation of any account of observability of mental states: mental states are not observable in the same way as the sensory properties of physical objects.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 89,764

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Theory-Theory and the Direct Perception of Mental States.Jane Suilin Lavelle - 2012 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 3 (2):213-230.
Rethinking the ontogeny of mindreading.Maurizio Tirassa, Francesca M. Bosco & Livia Colle - 2006 - Consciousness and Cognition 15 (1):197-217.
The Phenomenology of Person Perception.Joel Krueger - 2014 - In Mark Bruhn & Donald Wehrs (eds.), Neuroscience, Literature, and History. Routledge. pp. 153-173.
Embodiment and the Perceptual Hypothesis.William E. S. McNeill - 2012 - Philosophical Quarterly 62 (247):569 - 591.


Added to PP

108 (#148,585)

6 months
4 (#314,058)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author Profiles

References found in this work

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas S. Kuhn - 1962 - Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Edited by Ian Hacking.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas Samuel Kuhn - 1962 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Edited by Otto Neurath.
The Phenomenological Mind.Shaun Gallagher & Dan Zahavi - 2008 - New York, NY: Routledge. Edited by Dan Zahavi.

View all 58 references / Add more references