Review of Philosophy and Psychology 3 (2):213-230 (2012)
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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Citations of this work BETA
Social Constraints on the Direct Perception of Emotions and Intentions.Shaun Gallagher & Somogy Varga - 2014 - Topoi 33 (1):185-199.
Theory of Mind and the Unobservability of Other Minds.Vivian Bohl & Nivedita Gangopadhyay - 2014 - Philosophical Explorations 17 (2):203-222.
How Direct is Social Perception?John Michael & Leon De Bruin - 2015 - Consciousness and Cognition 36:373-375.
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