The contributors to this volume examine current controversies about the importance of common sense psychology for our understanding of the human mind. Common sense provides a familiar and friendly psychological scheme by which to talk about the mind. Its categories (belief, desire, intention, consciousness, emotion, and so on) tend to portray the mind as quite different from the rest of nature, and thus irreducible to physical matters and its laws. In this volume a variety of positions on common sense psychology (...) from critical to supportive, from exegetical to speculative, are represented. Among the questions posed are: Is common sense psychology an empirical theory, a body of analytic knowledge, a practice, or a strategy? If it is a legitimate enterprise can it be naturalized or not? If it is not legitimate can it be eliminated? Is its fate tied to our understanding of consciousness? Should we approach its concepts and generalizations from the standpoint of conceptual analysis or from the philosophy of science? (shrink)
Eliminativism assumes that commonsense psychology describes and explains the mind in terms of the internal design and operation of the mind. If this assumption is invalidated, so is eliminativism. The same conditional is true of intentional realism. Elsewhere (Bogdan 1991) I have argued against this 'folk- theory-theory' assumption by showing that commonsense psychology is not an empirical prototheory of the mind but a biosocially motivated practice of coding, utilizing, and sharing information from and about conspecifics. Here, without presupposing a specific (...) analysis of commonsense psychology, I want to challenge a key implication of the 'folk-theory-theory' assumption to the effect that commonsense psychology is committed to a definite architecture of the mind. (shrink)
Information is the fuel of cognition. At its most basic level, information is a matter of structures interacting under laws. The notion of information thus reflects the (relational) fact that a structure is created by the impact of another structure. The impacted structure is an encoding, in some concrete form, of the interaction with the impacting structure. Information is, essentially, the structural trace in some system of an interaction with another system; it is also, as a consequence, the structural fuel (...) which drives the impacted system's subsequent processes and behavior. Information takes various forms because the world has many levels of compositional and functional complexity, under different constraints. The key constraints that matter in the understanding of information are natural patterns of organization, or types, and systematic correlations among types, or laws. These level- sensitive constraints, in the form of types and laws, shape the very form in which information is tokened in some structure, that is, the very form in which it is encoded. As a result, the information-producing interactions bring about different sorts of structures, with various sorts of causal effects and functions, whence so many ways in which information is coded and utilized. (shrink)
Aside from brute force, there are several philosophically respectable ways of eliminating the mental. In recent years the most popular elimination strategy has been directed against our common sense or folk psychological understanding of the mental. The strategy goes by the name of eliminative materialism (or eliminativism, in short). The motivation behind this strategy seems to be the following. If common sense psychology can be construed as the principled theory of the mental, whose vocabulary and principles implicitly define what counts (...) as mental, then eliminating the theory is eliminating its subject matter. If the theory is shown to be false, then its subject matter does not exist. If, in other words, common sense psychology can be shown to describe and explain nothing real in human cognition, then the mental itself is a fiction. (shrink)
Pretend play and pretense develop in distinct phases of childhood as ontogenetically adaptive responses to pressures speciﬁc to those phases, and may have evolved in different periods of human ancestry. These are pressures to assimilate cultural artifacts, norms, roles, and behavioral scripts. The playful and creative elements in both forms of pretending are dictated by the variable, open-ended, and evolving nature and function of the cultural tasks they handle. The resulting creativity of the adult intellect is likely to be a (...) distant and indirect by-product of temporary and speciﬁc ontogenetic responses to temporary and speciﬁc ontogenetic challenges, particularly cultural ones. (shrink)
What is it that one thinks or believes when one thinks or believes something? A mental formula? A sentence in some natural language? Its truth conditions? Or perhaps an abstract proposition? The current story of content is fairly ecumenical. It says that a number of aspects, some mental, other semantic, go into our understanding of content. Yet the current story is incomplete. It leaves out a very important aspect of content, one which I call incremental information. It is information in (...) a specific format, information as a limited or local increment, structured by a number of underlying parameters. It is in the form of such increments that information drives cognition and behavior. This is why, perhaps of all aspects of content, it is incremental information which matters most when we want to understand cognitive attitudes and performances. This in turn must have an impact on our philosophical notions of content, propositional attitudes, inference, justification and knowledge. (shrink)
If there is a dogma in the contemporary philosophy of the cognitive mind, it must be the notion that cognition is semantic causation or, differently put, that it is semantics that runs the psyche. This is what the notion of psychosemantics and (often) intentionality are all about. Another dogma, less widespread than the first but almost equally potent, is that common sense psychology is the implicit theory of psychosemantics. The two dogmas are jointly encapsulated in the following axiom. Mental attitudes (...) such as beliefs and desires have essentially semantic contents, or are semantically evaluable. (This is why they are called propositional attitudes.) Mental attitudes have causal powers in virtue of their semantic properties. The content of an attitude has causal powers qua semantic, or more exactly in virtue of its syntactic structure which reflects relevant semantic properties and relations. (Propositions attitudinized cause in virtue of their semantically sensitive syntax.) It is the fact that mental attitudes cause in virtue of being semantic that explains why the cognitive mind is essentially semantic and why common sense psychology is implicitly true of the semantic mind. (shrink)
Communication by shared meaning, themastery of word semantics,metarepresentation and metamentation aremental abilities, uniquely human, that share a sense ofintentionality or reference. The latteris developed by a naive psychology or interpretation – acompetence dedicated to representingintentional relations between conspecifics and the world. Theidea that interpretation builds new mentalabilities around a sense of reference is based on three linesof analysis – conceptual, psychological andevolutionary. The conceptual analysis reveals that a senseof reference is at the heart of the abilitiesin question. Psychological data track (...) tight developmentalcorrelations between interpretation and theabilities it designs. Finally, an evolutionary hypothesislooks at why interpretation designed thosenew abilities around a sense of reference. (shrink)
If we are serious about concepts, we must begin by addressing two questions: What are concepts for, what is their job? And what means are available in an organism for concepts to do their job? One is a question of raison d'.
Many philosophers and a few psychologists think that we understand our own minds before we understand those of others. Most developmental psychologists think that children understand their own minds at about the same time they understand other minds, by using the same cognitive abilities. I disagree with both views. I think that children understand other minds before they understand their own. Their self-understanding depends on some cognitive abilities that develop later than, and independently of, the abilities involved in understanding other (...) minds. This is the general theme of this chapter. (shrink)
A distinguished wise man, Emil Cioran, with whom I share a country of birth and the thought that follows, said once that the two most interesting things in life are gossip and metaphysics. I can hardly think of a more self evident and enjoyable truth, if wisely construed. This volume combines the two pleasures, for it is an exercise in the metaphysics of wise gossip, of how we make sense of each other, and how, as a result we interpret, explain, (...) rationalize and evaluate our representations and actions. The body of wisdom which allows us to do all this is currently currently called folk or common sense psychology. I will also call it psychofolklore or the folklore of the mind. (shrink)
There is a wide and puzzleful gap between the child’s mastery of first- and recursive or higher-order attributions of attitudes, measured not only in years but also in the cognitive resources involved. Some accounts explain the gap in terms of the maturation of the competencies involved, others invoke the slow development of enabling resources, such as short-term memory, the syntax of sentence embedding or sequential reasoning. All these accounts assume a continuity of competence between first- and higher-order attributions. I disagree (...) and argue, with psychological and neuroscientific support, that there are two distinct (though developmentally overlapping and interacting) competencies, one metaintentional and the other metarepresentational. I focus below on the former and argue that it is egocentric, situated, nonpropositional and thus intrinsically limited to first-order attributions, even when all the enabling resources are in place. (shrink)
Self-ascriptions of thoughts and attitudes depend on a sense of the intentionality of one’s own mental states, which develops later than, and independently of, the sense of the intentionality of the thoughts and attitudes of others. This sense of the self-intentionality of one’s own mental states grows initially out of executive developments that enable one to simulate one’s own actions and perceptions, as genuine off-line thoughts, and to regulate such simulations.
Almost everybody believes, but nobody has conclusively shown, that common sense psychology is a descriptive body of knowledge about the mind, the way physics is about elementary particles or medicine about bodily conditions. Of course, common sense psychology helps itself to many notions about the mind. This does not show that common sense psychology is about the mind. Physics also helps itself to plenty of mathematical notions, without being about mathematical entities and relations. Employment of notions about the mind does (...) not by itself establish the nature and business of common sense psychology. To find out what the latter's notions are about requires finding out what they are for. To find out what they are for, we should start by asking who employs them in what contexts and for what reasons. If we consider seriously these questions, we should not be too surprised to find out that: (1) A subject is an agent busily pursuing his worldly interests. In the process, he encodes, operates on, can be read for, and often deliberately conveys information about his current as well as past or future cognitive and behavioral states, and about the world around him, as it was, is, and could be. (2) A sense maker is also a busy agent. To pursue her worldly.. (shrink)
This chapter provides the teleological foundations for our analysis of guidance to goal. Its objective is to ground goal-directedness genetically. The basic suggestion is this. Organisms are small things, with few energy resources and puny physical means, battling a ruthless physical and biological nature. How do they manage to survive and multiply? CLEVERLY, BY ORGANIZING.
Heyes's (1998) skepticism about theory of mind (ToM) in nonhuman primates exploits the idea of a strong and unified theory of mind in humans based on an unanalyzed category of mental state. It also exploits narrow debates about crucial observations and experiments while neglecting wider evolutionary trends. I argue against both exploitations.
Unlike most current researchers in philosophy and psychology, who view interpretation as a way to understand the minds and behavior of others, Radu J. Bogdan sets out to establish a new evolutionary and practical view of interpretation. According to Bogdan, the ability to interpret others' mental states has evolved under communal, political, and epistemic pressures to enable us to cope with the impact of other organisms on our own goals in the competition to survive. Interpretation evolved among primates by natural (...) and then cultural selection. As an adaptation, it is a competence in the form of a battery of practical skills that serve the interpreter's interests in social interactions. Evolutionary theory does not just deepen our understanding of interpretation; without it, we cannot understand what interpretation is and how it does its job. Interpreting Minds raises many thought-provoking issues for philosophers of mind and culture; evolutionary, developmental, and social psychologists; ethologists; cognitive and cultural anthropologists; evolutionary biologists; and others interested in cognitive development. (shrink)