Reconstructing Folk Psychology

Dissertation, University of Minnesota (2002)

The term "folk psychology" refers to the average person's ability to understand, describe, and predict human thought and behavior without any knowledge of the theories of scientific psychology. Many philosophers believe that this ability arises from the possession of a theory, whose central concepts are beliefs, desires, and other propositional attitudes. This assumption has played a central role in philosophy; however, questions exist concerning the truth of the folk theory and its possible elimination as a result of theoretical developments in cognitive science. This dissertation argues that folk psychology can be understood as resting on a theory, but not one that is built around propositional attitudes. The position developed and defended in the dissertation is "positive meta-eliminativism." It is meta-eliminativism, because it is not about the theory of folk psychology but our reconstruction of that theory. It is positive, because I argue that the proper reconstruction of folk psychology will not face elimination from theoretical developments in folk psychology
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