Disagreeing with others about how to interpret a social interaction is a common occurrence. We often find ourselves offering divergent interpretations of others’ motives, intentions, beliefs, and emotions. Remarkably, philosophical accounts of how we understand others do not explain, or even attempt to explain such disagreements. I argue these disparities in social interpretation stem, in large part, from the effect of social categorization and our goals in social interactions, phenomena long studied by social psychologists. I argue we ought to expand (...) our accounts of how we understand others in order to accommodate these data and explain how such profound disagreements arise amongst informed, rational, well-meaning individuals. (shrink)
Peter Hanks defends a new theory about the nature of propositional content, according to which the basic bearers of representational properties are particular mental or spoken actions. He explains the unity of propositions and provides new solutions to a long list of puzzles and problems in philosophy of language.
In this paper I evaluate embodied social cognition, embodied cognition’s account of how we understand others. I identify and evaluate three claims that motivate embodied social cognition. These claims are not specific to social cognition; they are general hypotheses about cognition. As such, they may be used in more general arguments for embodied cognition. I argue that we have good reasons to reject these claims. Thus, the case for embodied social cognition fails. Moreover, to the extent that general arguments for (...) embodied cognition rest on these premises, they are correspondingly uncompelling. (shrink)
In our everyday social interactions, we try to make sense of what people are thinking, why they act as they do, and what they are likely to do next. This process is called mindreading. Mindreading, Shannon Spaulding argues in this book, is central to our ability to understand and interact with others. Philosophers and cognitive scientists have converged on the idea that mindreading involves theorizing about and simulating others’ mental states. She argues that this view of mindreading is limiting (...) and outdated. Most contemporary views of mindreading vastly underrepresent the diversity and complexity of mindreading. She articulates a new theory of mindreading that takes into account cutting edge philosophical and empirical research on in-group/out-group dynamics, social biases, and how our goals and the situational context influence how we interpret others’ behavior. -/- Spaulding's resulting theory of mindreading provides a more accurate, comprehensive, and perhaps pessimistic view of our abilities to understand others, with important epistemological and ethical implications. Deciding who is trustworthy, knowledgeable, and competent are epistemically and ethically fraught judgments: her new theory of mindreading sheds light on how these judgments are made and the conditions under which they are unreliable. -/- This book will be of great interest to students of philosophy of psychology, philosophy of mind, applied epistemology, cognitive science and moral psychology, as well as those interested in conceptual issues in psychology. (shrink)
One version of the Humean Theory of Motivation holds that all actions can be causally explained by reference to a belief–desire pair. Some have argued that pretense presents counter-examples to this principle, as pretense is instead causally explained by a belief-like imagining and a desire-like imagining. We argue against this claim by denying imagination the power of motivation. Still, we allow imagination a role in guiding action as a script . We generalize the script concept to show how things besides (...) imagination can occupy this same role in both pretense and non-pretense actions. The Humean Theory of Motivation should then be modified to cover this script role. (shrink)
In Hanks I defend a theory of propositions that locates the source of propositional unity in acts of predication that people perform in thought and speech. On my account, these acts of predication are judgmental or assertoric in character, and they commit the speaker to things being the way they are represented to be in the act of predication. This leads to a problem about negations, disjunctions, conditionals, and other kinds of embeddings. When you assert that a is F or (...) b is G you do not assert that a is F, nor do you commit yourself to a’s being F. According to my theory, however, in uttering the disjunction you predicate F of a. What is going on? I account for these cases using the concept of cancellation. In uttering the disjunction, the act of predicating F of a is cancelled, and when an act of predication is cancelled it does not count as an assertion and does not commit the speaker to anything. But what is it for an act of predication to be cancelled? One immediate concern is that cancelled predication won’t provide a unified proposition to be the input to disjunction. In this paper I answer this and related objections by explaining and defending my concept of cancellation. (shrink)
According to embodied cognition, the philosophical and empirical literature on theory of mind is misguided. Embodied cognition rejects the idea that social cognition requires theory of mind. It regards the intramural debate between the Theory Theory and the Simulation Theory as irrelevant, and it dismisses the empirical studies on theory of mind as ill conceived and misleading. Embodied cognition provides a novel deflationary account of social cognition that does not depend on theory of mind. In this chapter, l describe embodied (...) cognition’s alternative to theory of mind and discuss three challenges it faces. (shrink)
Direct Social Perception (DSP) is the idea that we can non-inferentially perceive others’ mental states. In this paper, I argue that the standard way of framing DSP leaves the debate at an impasse. I suggest two alternative interpretations of the idea that we see others’ mental states: others’ mental states are represented in the content of our perception, and we have basic perceptual beliefs about others’ mental states. I argue that the latter interpretation of DSP is more promising and examine (...) the kinds of mental states that plausibly could satisfy this version of DSP. (shrink)
Recently, philosophers and psychologists defending the embodied cognition research program have offered arguments against mindreading as a general model of our social understanding. The embodied cognition arguments are of two kinds: those that challenge the developmental picture of mindreading and those that challenge the alleged ubiquity of mindreading. Together, these two kinds of arguments, if successful, would present a serious challenge to the standard account of human social understanding. In this paper, I examine the strongest of these embodied cognition arguments (...) and argue that mindreading approaches can withstand the best of these arguments from embodied cognition. (shrink)
Mirror neurons are widely regarded as an important key to social cognition. Despite such wide agreement, there is very little consensus on how or why they are important. The goal of this paper is to clearly explicate the exact role mirror neurons play in social cognition. I aim to answer two questions about the relationship between mirroring and social cognition: What kind of social understanding is involved with mirroring? How is mirroring related to that understanding? I argue that philosophical and (...) empirical considerations lead us to accord a fairly minimal role for mirror neurons in social cognition. (shrink)
In this paper I defend an account of the nature of propositional content according to which the proposition expressed by a declarative sentence is a certain type of action a speaker performs in uttering that sentence. On this view, the semantic contents of proper names turn out to be types of reference acts. By carefully individuating these types, it is possible to provide new solutions to Frege’s puzzles about names in identity- and belief-sentences.
Direct Perception is the view that we can see others' mental states, i.e. that we perceive others' mental states with the same immediacy and directness that we perceive ordinary objects in the world. I evaluate Direct Perception by considering whether we can see intentions, a particularly promising candidate for Direct Perception. I argue that the view equivocates on the notion of intention. Disambiguating the Direct Perception claim reveals a troubling dilemma for the view: either it is banal or highly implausible.
Imagination seems to play an epistemic role in philosophical and scientific thought experiments, mindreading, and ordinary practical deliberations insofar as it generates new knowledge of contingent facts about the world. However, it also seems that imagination is limited to creative generation of ideas. Sometimes we imagine fanciful ideas that depart freely from reality. The conjunction of these claims is what I call the puzzle of knowledge through imagination. This chapter aims to resolve this puzzle. I argue that imagination has an (...) epistemic role to play, but it is limited to the context of discovery. Imagination generates ideas, but other cognitive capacities must be employed to evaluate these ideas in order for them to count as knowledge. Consideration of the Simulation Theory's so-called "threat of collapse” provides further evidence that imagination does not, on its own, yield new knowledge of contingent facts, and it suggests a way to supplement imagination in order to get such knowledge. (shrink)
We often have affective responses to fictional events. We feel afraid for Desdemona when Othello approaches her in a murderous rage. We feel disgust toward Iago for orchestrating this tragic event. What mental architecture could explain these affective responses? In this paper I consider the claim that the best explanation of our affective responses to fiction involves imaginative desires. Some theorists argue that accounts that do not invoke imaginative desires imply that consumers of fiction have irrational desires. I argue that (...) there are serious worries about imaginative desires that warrant skepticism about the adequacy of the account. Moreover, it is quite difficult to articulate general principles of rationality for desires, and even according to the most plausible of these possible principles, desires about fiction are not irrational. (shrink)
Most people think of themselves as pretty good at understanding others’ beliefs, desires, emotions, and intentions. Accurate mindreading is an impressive cognitive feat, and for this reason the philosophical literature on mindreading has focused exclusively on explaining such successes. However, as it turns out, we regularly make mindreading mistakes. Understanding when and how mind misreading occurs is crucial for a complete account of mindreading. In this paper, I examine the conditions under which mind misreading occurs. I argue that these patterns (...) of mind misreading shed light on the limits of mindreading, reveal new perspectives on how mindreading works, and have implications for social epistemology. (shrink)
Recently, there has been a resurgence of interest in theories of mindreading. New discoveries in neuroscience have revitalized the languishing debate. The discovery of so-called mirror neurons has revived interest particularly in the Simulation Theory (ST) of mindreading. Both ST proponents and theorists studying mirror neurons have argued that mirror neurons are strong evidence in favor of ST over Theory Theory (TT). In this paper I argue against the prevailing view that mirror neurons are evidence for the ST of mindreading. (...) My view is that on an appropriate construal of their function, mirror neurons do not operate like simulation theorists claim. In fact, mirror neurons are more appropriately understood as one element in an information-rich mindreading process. As such, mirror neurons fit in better with some sort of TT account of mindreading. I offer a positive account, the Model TT, which better explains the role of mirror neurons in social cognition. (shrink)
Extended cognition is the view that some cognitive processes extend beyond the brain. One prominent strategy of arguing against extended cognition is to offer necessary conditions on cognition and argue that the proposed extended processes fail to satisfy these conditions. I argue that this strategy is misguided and fails to refute extended cognition. I suggest a better way to evaluate the case for extended cognition that should be acceptable to all parties, captures the intuitiveness of previous objections, and avoids the (...) problems with the strategy of offering necessary conditions on cognition. I conclude that extended cognition theorists have failed to establish the truth of extended cognition. (shrink)
In this paper, I examine the challenges socially extended minds pose for mainstream, individualistic accounts of social cognition. I argue that individualistic accounts of social cognition neglect phenomena important to social cognition that are properly emphasized by socially extended mind accounts. Although I do not think the evidence or arguments warrant replacing individualistic explanations of social cognition with socially extended explanations, I argue that we have good reason to supplement our individualistic accounts so as to include the ways in which (...) situational context affects social interactions. The result, I hope, is a more sophisticated individualism that offers a more comprehensive account of how we think and act together. (shrink)
Successful athletic performance requires precision in many respects. A batter stands behind home plate awaiting the arrival of a ball that is less than three inches in diameter and moving close to 100 mph. His goal is to hit it with a bat that is also less than three inches in diameter. This impressive feat requires extraordinary temporal and spatial coordination. The sweet spot of the bat must be at the same place, at the same time, as the ball. A (...) basketball player must keep a ball bouncing as she speeds from one end of the court to another, evading defensive players. She may never break pace as she lifts from the ground, throwing the ball fifteen feet toward a hoop that is eighteen inches in diameter. One task facing a psychologist involves explaining how the body does such things within the sometimes very demanding spatial and temporal constraints that a given task imposes. Part of the goal of this chapter is to sketch the commitments of an embodied approach to such an explanation. We shall see that an embodied account of motor skills draws concepts that depart radically from more traditional cognitivist theories of motor activity. Similarly, because an embodied approach to cognition introduces new ways to understand the human capacity for social interaction, it also promises to shed new light on how athletes coordinate their actions with each other. (shrink)
Can phenomenological evidence play a decisive role in accepting or rejecting social cognition theories? Is it the case that a theory of social cognition ought to explain and be empirically supported by our phenomenological experience? There is serious disagreement about the answers to these questions. This paper aims to determine the methodological role of phenomenology in social cognition debates. The following three features are characteristic of evidence capable of playing a substantial methodological role: novelty, reliability, and relevance. I argue that (...) phenomenological evidence lacks all three criteria and, consequently, should not play a substantial role in debates about social cognition. (shrink)
Different types of consent are used to obtain human biospecimens for future research. This variation has resulted in confusion regarding what research is permitted, inadvertent constraints on future research, and research proceeding without consent. The National Institutes of Health Clinical Center's Department of Bioethics held a workshop to consider the ethical acceptability of addressing these concerns by using broad consent for future research on stored biospecimens. Multiple bioethics scholars, who have written on these issues, discussed the reasons for consent, the (...) range of consent strategies, and gaps in our understanding, and concluded with a proposal for broad initial consent coupled with oversight and, when feasible, ongoing provision of information to donors. This article describes areas of agreement and areas that need more research and dialogue. Given recent proposed changes to the Common Rule, and new guidance regarding storing and sharing data and samples, this is an important and tim.. (shrink)
Propositions, the abstract, truth-bearing contents of sentences and beliefs, continue to be the focus of healthy debates in philosophy of language and metaphysics. This article is a critical survey of work on propositions since the mid-90s, with an emphasis on newer work from the past decade. Topics to be covered include a substitution puzzle about propositional designators, two recent arguments against propositions, and two new theories about the nature of propositions.
A first-person proposition is a proposition that only a single subject can assert or believe. When I assert ‘I am on fire’ I assert a first-person proposition that only I have access to, in the sense that no one else can assert or believe this proposition. This is in contrast to third-person propositions, which can be asserted or believed by anyone.
In 1913 Wittgenstein raised an objection to Russell’s multiple relation theory of judgment that eventually led Russell to abandon his theory. As he put it in the Tractatus, the objection was that “the correct explanation of the form of the proposition, ‘A makes the judgement p’, must show that it is impossible for a judgement to be a piece of nonsense. (Russell’s theory does not satisfy this requirement,” (5.5422). This objection has been widely interpreted to concern type restrictions on the (...) constituents of judgment. I argue that this interpretation is mistaken and that Wittgenstein’s objection is in fact a form of the problem of the unity of the proposition. (shrink)
Social cognition is the capacity to understand and interact with others. The mainstream account of social cognition is mindreading, the view that we humans understanding others by interpreting their behavior in terms of mental states. Recently theorists from philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience have challenged the mindreading account, arguing for a more deflationary account of social cognition. In this paper I examine a deflationary account of social cognition, embodied simulation, which is inspired by recent neuroscientific findings. I argue that embodied simulation (...) fails to present an adequate alternative to mindreading accounts of social cognition. I defend a philosophically and empirically plausible two-systems account of social cognition, which holds that even very young children are capable of mindreading. (shrink)