Why pretense poses a problem for 4E cognition

Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 21 (5):1003-1021 (2021)
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Abstract

Whether a person is pretending, or not, is a function of their beliefs and intentions. This poses a challenge to 4E accounts of pretense, which typically seek to exclude such cognitive states from their explanations of psychological phenomena. Resulting tensions are explored within three recent accounts of imagination and pretense offered by theorists working in the 4E tradition. A path forward is then charted, through considering ways in which explanations can invoke beliefs and intentions while remaining true to 4E precepts. To make real progress in explaining pretense, 4E theorists will need to grow comfortable with the idea that two agents whose outward behaviors and environments are, in the short term, the same, may be guided by quite different beliefs and intentions, in virtue of which only one is pretending. In this way, the scientific project of explaining pretense remains inseparable from the more general project of determining which beliefs and intentions are appropriate to ascribe to which kinds of entities, given which kinds of behaviors.

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Peter Langland-Hassan
University of Cincinnati

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