There are many views about the structure of concepts, a plausible one of which is the theory-theory. Though this view is plausible for concrete concepts, it is unclear that it would work for abstract concepts, and then for moral concepts. The goal of this paper is to provide a plausible theory-theory account for moral concepts and show that it is supported by results in the moral psychology literature. Such studies in moral psychology do not explicitly contend for the (...)theory-theory of moral concepts, but I demonstrate that they actually do provide evidence for the use of theory knowledge at times in moral categorization and decision-making. In philosophy of cognitive science, I newly show that there is evidence that the theory-theory does apply to some moral concepts. (shrink)
Recent proponents of the ‘theory theory’ of mind often trace its roots back to Wilfrid Sellars’ famous ‘myth of Jones’ in his 1956 article, ‘Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind’. Sellars developed an account of the intersubjective basis of our knowledge of the inner mental states of both self and others, an account which included the claim that such knowledge is in some sense theoretical knowledge. This paper examines the nature of this claim in Sellars’ original account and its relationship (...) to more recent debates concerning ‘theory of mind’, in particular the theory theory. A close look reveals that Sellars’ original view embodied several distinctions that would enable more recent theory theorists to accommodate certain phenomenological objections that have been raised against that outlook. At the heart of the philosophical issue is an overlooked complexity involved in Sellars’ account of the ‘theory/observation’ distinction, involving a conception of the distinction that is both independently plausible and a key to the issue in dispute. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
Alison Gopnik and Andrew Meltzoff have argued for a view they call the ‘theory theory’: theory change in science and children are similar. While their version of the theory theory has been criticized for depending on a number of disputed claims, we argue that there is a fundamental problem which is much more basic: the theory theory is multiply ambiguous. We show that it might be claiming that a similarity holds between theory change in children and (i) individual scientists, (ii) (...) a rational reconstruction of a Superscientist, or (iii) the scientiﬁc community. We argue that (i) is false, (ii) is non-empirical (which is problematic since the theory theory is supposed to be a bold empirical hypothesis), and (iii) is either false or doesn’t make enough sense to have a truth-value. We conclude that the theory theory is an interesting failure. Its failure points the way to a full, empirical picture of scientiﬁc development, one that marries a concern with the social dynamics of science to a psychological theory of scientiﬁc cognition. 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved. (shrink)
In this paper, I present a version of theory theory, so-called model theory, according to which theories are families of models, which represent real-world phenomena when combined with relevant hypotheses, best interpreted in terms of know-how. This form of theory theory has a number of advantages over traditional forms, and is not subject to some recent charges coming from narrativity theory. Most importantly, practice is central to model theory. Practice matters because folk psychological knowledge is knowledge of the world only (...) if it is combined with knowledge of how to apply it. By combining the general and the particular in this way, model theory gives a deep and explanatorily satisfactory account of the centrality of practice. Model theory accounts not just as well as, but better than, narrativity theory for the fact that our folk psychological explanations appear to contain, or form part of, narratives. (shrink)
The Theory Theory (TT) versus Simulation Theory (ST) debate is primarily concerned with how we understand others’ mental states. Theory theorists claim we do this using rules that are akin to theoretical laws, whereas simulation theorists claim we use our own minds to imagine ourselves in another’s position. Theorists from both camps suggest a consideration of individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) can help resolve the TT/ST debate (e.g., Baron-Cohen 1995; Carruthers 1996a; Goldman 2006). We present a three-part argument that (...) such research has so far been inconclusive and that the prospects for studies of ASD to resolve the debate in the near future remain uncertain. First, we discuss evidence indicating that some individuals with ASD can perform effectively on tests of mental state understanding, which questions what ASD can tell us regarding theorising or simulation. Second, we claim that there is compelling evidence that domain-general mechanisms are implicated in mental state reasoning, which undermines how ASD might inform the TT/ST debate given that both theories appeal to domain-specific mindreading mechanisms. Third, we suggest that neuroscientific evidence for an assumed role of the mirror neuron system in autism also fails to arbitrate between TT and ST. We suggest that while the study of ASD may eventually provide a resolution to the TT/ST debate, it is also vital for researchers to examine the issues through other avenues, for example, by examining people’s everyday counterfactual reasoning with mental state scenarios. (shrink)
The purpose of the paper is twofold. I first outline a philosophical theory of concepts based on conceptual role semantics. This approach is explicitly intended as a framework for the study and explanation of conceptual change in science. Then I point to the close similarities between this philosophical framework and the theory theory of concepts, suggesting that a convergence between psychological and philosophical approaches to concepts is possible. An underlying theme is to stress that using a non-atomist account of concepts (...) is crucial for the successful study of conceptual development and change. (shrink)
In this article we take issue with theory theory and simulation theory accounts of folk psychology committed to (i) the belief-desire (BD) model and (ii) the assumption of universality (AU). Recent studies cast doubt on the compatibility of these commitments because they reveal considerable cross-cultural differences in folk psychologies. We present both theory theory and simulation theory with the following dilemma: either (i) keep the BD-model as an account of the surface properties of specific explicit folk psychologies and give up (...) AU in light of the cross-cultural evidence; or (ii) defend AU with respect to core capacities underlying different culture-specific folk psychologies, and explain why the BD-model will be genuinely explanatory at this level. (shrink)
What defence does the Narrative Practice Hypothesis have against the charge that it is a covert form of externalist theory theory ? I discuss and reject Dan Hutto's own strategies and argue that the NPH remains vulnerable to a threat of collapse into externalist TT as long as narrative folk-psychological explanation is differentiated from simple belief-desire explanation merely by a degree of complexity, subtlety and/or context-sensitivity. It is entirely plausible, however, that there is a more principled distinction between these two (...) types of explanation of human behaviour. I defend such a distinction and show how it eliminates the threat of collapse into TT entirely. (shrink)
Carpendale & Lewis's (C&L's) proposal of a social interaction account makes clear the need for researchers of all theoretical orientations to get specific about how social experience influences children's developing understanding of mind, but it is premature to reject other theories, such as theory-theory, which also attribute a major role to experience.
In this commentary we suggest that asymmetries in reasoning associated with moral judgment do not necessarily invalidate a theory-theory account of naïve psychological reasoning. The asymmetries may reflect a core knowledge assumption that human nature is prosocial, an assumption that heightens vigilance for antisocial dispositions, which in turn leads to differing assumptions about what is the presumed topic of conversation.
I raise two issues for Machery's discussion and interpretation of the theory-theory. First, I raise an objection against Machery's claim that theory-theorists take theories to be default bodies of knowledge. Second, I argue that theory-theorists' experimental results do not support Machery's contention that default bodies of knowledge include theories used in their own proprietary kind of categorization process.
In this paper my concern is to evaluate a particular answer to the question of how we acquire mastery of the syntax of our first language. According to this answer children learn syntax by means of scientific investigation. Alison Gopnik has recently championed this idea as an extension of what she calls the ‘theory theory’, a well established approach to cognitive development in developntental psychology. I will argue against this extension of the theory theory. The general thrust of my objection (...) is that at the point at which children are acquiring knowledge of syntax they are not in a position to engage in far-reaching scientific investigation. Or, if they are, there are no mechanisms in place to ensure that their scientific investigations will generate a common body of knowledge so making linguistic convergence a mystery. That this is so is a product of two salient features of scientific confirmation. I will conclude that my objections to the theory theory put pressure on learning theories in general. (shrink)
Alison Gopnik and Andrew Meltzoff have argued for a view they call the 'theory theory': theory change in science and children are similar. While their version of the theory theory has been criticized for depending on a number of disputed claims, we argue that there is a fundamental problem which is much more basic: the theory theory is multiply ambiguous. We show that it might be claiming that a similarity holds between theory change in children and (i) individual scientists, (ii) (...) a rational reconstruction of a Superscientist, or (iii) the scientific community. We argue that (i) is false, (ii) is non-empirical (which is problematic since the theory theory is supposed to be a bold empirical hypothesis), and (iii) is either false or doesn't make enough sense to have a truth-value. We conclude that the theory theory is an interesting failure. Its failure points the way to a full, empirical picture of scientific development, one that marries a concern with the social dynamics of science to a psychological theory of scientific cognition. (shrink)
Carpendale & Lewis contend that correlations between sociolinguistic factors and theory-of-mind performance indicate that social knowledge develops from social interactive processes. However, theory-theory proponents also regard these correlations as compatible with their view of how mental concepts develop. A more fruitful distinction lies in the differences of both accounts in explaining how mental concepts acquire meaning.
Abstract ?Theory of Mind? (ToM) is widely held to be ubiquitous in our navigation of the social world. Recently this standard view has been contested by phenomenologists and enactivists. Proponents of the ubiquity of ToM, however, accept and effectively neutralize the intuitions behind their arguments by arguing that ToM is mostly sub-personal. This paper proposes a similar move on behalf of the phenomenologists and enactivists: it offers a novel explanation of the intuition that ToM is ubiquitous that is compatible with (...) the rejection of this ubiquity. According to this explanation, we use ToM-talk primarily to model and thereby reconstruct non-mentalizing social-cognitive processes in order to explain our assessment of the behaviour of others. The intuition that ToM is ubiquitous is the result of mistaking the model for the real thing. This explanation is argued to be more complete than the ?ToM-ist? explanation of the intuition that ToM is not ubiquitous. (shrink)
In this chapter I attempt to curb the pretensions of simulationism. I argue that it is, at best, an epistemological doctrine of limited scope. It may explain how we go about attributing beliefs and desires to others, and perhaps to ourselves, in some cases. But simulation cannot provide the fundamental basis of our conception of, or knowledge of, minded agency.
I argue that to the extent to which philosophical theories of objective probability have offered theoretically adequateconceptions of objective probability (in connection with such desiderata as causal and explanatory significance, applicability to single cases, etc.), they have failed to satisfy amethodological standard — roughly, a requirement to the effect that the conception offered be specified with the precision appropriate for a physical interpretation of an abstract formal calculus and be fully explicated in terms of concepts, objects or phenomena understood independently (...) of the idea of physical probability. The significance of this, and of the suggested methodological standard, is then briefly discussed. (shrink)
This was originally written and presented at the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar for College Teachers on Folk Psychology vs. Mental Simulation: How Minds Understand Minds, run by Robert Gordon at the University of Missouri - St. Louis, June-July 1999. It has been only lightly revised since, and should be considered a rough draft. Needless to say, the ideas herein owe a lot to what I learned at the seminar from Robert Gordon and the other participants, particularly Jim (...) Garson. However, any errors are my responsibility alone. (shrink)
I argue that to the extent to which philosophical theories of objective probability have offered theoretically adequate conceptions of objective probability , they have failed to satisfy a methodological standard -- roughly, a requirement to the effect that the conception offered be specified with the precision appropriate for a physical interpretation of an abstract formal calculus and be fully explicated in terms of concepts, objects or phenomena understood independently of the idea of physical probability. The significance of this, and of (...) the suggested methodological standard, is then briefly discussed. (shrink)