Folk psychological narratives and the case of autism

Philosophical Papers 32 (3):345-361 (2003)
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Abstract

This paper builds on the insights of Jerome Bruner by underlining the central importance of narratives explaining actions in terms of reasons, arguing that by giving due attention to the central roles that they play in our everyday understanding of others provides a better way of explicating the nature and source of that activity than does simulation theory, theory-theory or some union of the two. However, although I promote Bruner's basic claims about the roles narratives play in this everyday enterprise, I take issue with his characterization of the nature of narrative itself. In so doing, important questions are brought to the fore about what makes our understanding of narratives possible. In line with the idea that we ought to tell a developmental story that looks to the social arena for the source of narratives about reasons, I promote the idea that what is minimally required for becoming conversant in such everyday narratives need not be anything as sophisticated as a theory of mind or a capacity for simulation. The paper concludes using evidence concerning autism as a test case to help support this conclusion.

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