Synthese 194 (11):4365-4388 (2017)

John Michael
Aarhus University
In this paper, I show how theoretical discussion of recent research on the abilities of infants and young children to represent other agents’ beliefs has been shaped by a descriptivist conception of mental content, i.e., to the notion that the distal content of a mental representation is fixed by the core body of knowledge that is associated with that mental representation. I also show how alternative conceptions of mental content—and in particular Ruth Millikan’s teleosemantic approach—make it possible to endorse the view that infants have the ability to track beliefs by as early as 6 months while failing to understand some of the ways in which beliefs combine with each other and with other mental states in contributing to inferences and actions. In articulating this view, I will draw upon Millikan’s recently developed notion of ‘unicepts’. Unicepts, according to Millikan, are the basic representational vehicles that underpin our abilities to identify objects, properties, relations and kinds. When applied to research on mindreading in infancy and early childhood, Millikan’s approach generates fruitful new questions about the development of belief reasoning, and about the functions of belief reasoning in infancy and at different stages of childhood
Keywords Infant mindreading  Beliefs  Representation  Teleosemantics  Concepts  Development
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-015-0850-x
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References found in this work BETA

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas S. Kuhn - 1962 - University of Chicago Press.
The Origin of Concepts.Susan Carey - 2009 - Oxford University Press.

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