Social Understanding without Mentalizing


The standard view in philosophy and psychology claims that mentalizing is necessary and sufficient for social understanding. Mentalizing (also known as “mindreading”) is the name given to the cognitive capacities humans employ in explaining and predicting their own and other’s actions. The standard view is rejected by philosophers working in the phenomenological tradition. They have argued that mentalizing is neither necessary nor sufficient for social understanding. They suggest instead that most of the time we understand each other through what Shaun Gallagher has called “embodied practices.” My aim in this paper is to clarify and defend the claim that social understanding is grounded in embodied practice.