Is folk psychology a Lakatosian research program?

Philosophical Psychology 15 (3):343-358 (2002)
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It has often been argued, by philosophers and more recently by developmental psychologists, that our common-sense conception of the mind should be regarded as a scientific theory. However, those who advance this view rarely say much about what they take a scientific theory to be. In this paper, I look at one specific proposal as to how we should interpret the theory view of folk psychology--namely, by seeing it as having a structure analogous to that of a Lakatosian research program. I argue that although the Lakatosian model may seem promising--particularly to those who are interested in studying the development of children's understanding of the mind--the analogy between Lakatosian research programs and folk psychology cannot be made good because folk psychology does not possess anything analogous to the positive heuristic of a Lakatosian research program. I also argue that Lakatos' account of theories may not be the best one for developmental psychologists to adopt because of the emphasis which Lakatos places on the social embeddedness of scientific theorising



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Bill Wringe
Bilkent University

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