Theory-Theory and the Direct Perception of Mental States


Authors
Jane Lavelle
University of Edinburgh
Abstract
Philosophers and psychologists have often maintained that in order to attribute mental states to other people one must have a ‘theory of mind’. This theory facilitates our grasp of other people’s mental states. Debate has then focussed on the form this theory should take. Recently a new approach has been suggested, which I call the ‘Direct Perception approach to social cognition’. This approach maintains that we can directly perceive other people’s mental states. It opposes traditional views on two counts: by claiming that mental states are observable and by claiming that we can attribute them to others without the need for a theory of mind. This paper argues that there are two readings of the direct perception claims: a strong and a weak one. The Theory-theory is compatible with the weak version but not the strong one. The paper argues that the strong version of direct perception is untenable, drawing on evidence from the mirror neuron literature and arguments from the philosophy of science and perception to support this claim. It suggests that one traditional ‘theory of mind’ view, the ‘Theory-theory’ view, is compatible with the claim that mental states are observable, and concludes that direct perception views do not offer a viable alternative to theory of mind approaches to social cognition
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DOI 10.1007/s13164-012-0094-3
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References found in this work BETA

How the Body Shapes the Mind.Shaun Gallagher - 2005 - Oxford University Press UK.

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Citations of this work BETA

On Direct Social Perception.Shannon Spaulding - 2015 - Consciousness and Cognition 36:472-482.
On Whether We Can See Intentions.Shannon Spaulding - 2017 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 98 (2).

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