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Folk Psychological Narratives

The Sociocultural Basis of Understanding Reasons

Daniel D. Hutto

Publication Year: 2012

An argument that challenges the dominant “theory theory” and simulation theory approaches to folk psychology by claiming that our everyday understanding of intentional actions done for reasons is acquired by exposure to and engaging in specific kinds of narratives.

Published by: The MIT Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix-xvii

Folk psychology is a philosopher’s label for the practice of making sense of intentional actions, minimally, by appeal to an agent’s motivating beliefs and desires.1 It is the sort of thing one does, for example, when digesting Jane’s explanation of her late arrival at a meeting because she...

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pp. xix-xxi

First and foremost, I offer sincere apologies to my wife, Farah, and three boys—Alex, Rais, and Emerson—for lost family time, unhealthy levels of household stress, and the general distractedness of their husband and father. I fear, like Victor Frankenstein, “Study had before secluded me from the intercourse...


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pp. xxiii-xxiv

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1. The Limits of Spectatorial Folk Psychology

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pp. 1-21

It is a datum that psychologically normal, adult humans often act for reasons. Equally, they often make sense of intentional actions by seeking the reasons motivating such performances.1 I took off to London for a break because I was at my wit’s end. She canceled her trip because she no longer loved him. The...

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2. The Narrative Practice Hypothesis

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pp. 23-40

Not everyone has what it takes to be a folk psychologist. The birds and the bees don’t do it; chimps don’t do it. Even little kids don’t do it! This should not surprise us. Folk psychology is not easy—it is a quite sophisticated skill. Mastery of it rests on having met a number of prerequisites. At the very least...

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3. Intentional Attitudes

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pp. 41-63

Without question, much nonverbal responding takes the form of highly sophisticated patterns of activity. In one sense, these patterns are well suited for interpretation using folk psychological apparatus. Watching cat-and- mouse antics offers a spectacle of high-level anticipatory predator/prey interactions...

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4. Imaginative Extensions

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pp. 65-85

It might be conceded without too much contest that indexically inspired ACRs are sufficient for explaining the online behavioral antics of simple organisms, such as ants and bees. Still, it might be doubted that the same explanatory strategy can be extended successfully to more sophisticated nonverbal...

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5. Linguistic Transformations

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pp. 87-100

For a creature to have an attitude directed at a proposition (and not just a worldly offering)—for it to apprehend a state of affairs intensionally, so to speak—it must have the capacity to direct its attention at that state of affairs via structured vehicles of thought of some appropriate sort. Paradigmatically...

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6. Unprincipled Embodied Engagements

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pp. 101-128

The detour taken in the past three chapters was necessary in order to clarify the important distinction between intentional attitudes and propositional attitudes. With it in hand, it will be possible to say how children eventually acquire their first understanding of propositional attitude terms and what form it...

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7. Getting a Grip on the Attitudes

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pp. 129-142

Having a grasp of the core propositional attitudes is indisputably a nonnegotiable attribute of practicing folk psychologists. The NPH makes no offer to explain how children come into possession of such understanding prior to their acquisition of folk psychological skills. It simply assumes that the basic components...

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8. No Native Mentalizers

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pp. 143-162

The idea that our successful everyday navigation of the social world depends on third-person mindreading capacities is extremely popular. It is generally supposed that the latter are constantly but quietly at work, normally unnoticed and behind the scenes, as it were, and that they are responsible for...

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9. No Child’s Science

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pp. 163-177

At its core, scientific theory theory (or STT) holds that folk psychology is the result of explicit scientific theorizing on the part of preschoolers—that is, that our mature ToM is in fact the hard-won product of sustained observation, statistical analysis, experimental trial and error, and learning from others...

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10. Three Motivations and a Challenge

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pp. 179-198

For all that has been said, it is likely that some readers may still be inclined to believe in the existence of inherited mindreading devices (IMDs), positing these in order to fulfill certain perceived explanatory needs. And it might be thought, for example, that this idea could be combined with a softer variant...

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11. First Communions

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pp. 199-227

The existence of chimpanzee ToM abilities was once a very hot topic of debate. As early as 1978 Premack and Woodruff asked, in a paper by the same name, “Does the chimpanzee have a theory of mind?” Of all the primates, it was initially thought that chimps alone engage in acts of genuine tactical...

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12. Ultimate Origins and Creation Myths

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pp. 229-247

When thinking about the prehistoric origins of folk psychology, it is important to realize that our hominid ancestors (with the possible exception of the early humans) were without the resources of a grammatically complex language. For this reason I hold that they would have been unable to act for reasons of their...


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pp. 249-290


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pp. 291-328


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pp. 329-343

E-ISBN-13: 9780262275996
Print-ISBN-13: 9780262517980

Page Count: 368
Publication Year: 2012