Metaphysics and Semantics of Folk Psychology

By Krzysztof Swiatek.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

In this paper I propose a theory of folk psychology that bridges the metaphysical and semantic differences between the eliminativist and realist accounts of propositional attitudes. Building on Michel Seymour’s distinction between material and intentional components of meaning, I argue that the concepts of folk psychology postulated to explain others behaviour represent idealized types of mental states that correspond to neurophysiological types and serve to explain broad types of behaviour. The concepts of such folk psychology are material in Seymour’s sense; they belong to the public account of one’s behaviour and are perceived by external observers as causally efficacious. However, they do not square with the agent’s own account which is intentional: based in his own perceptions of his intents, the objects he posits into existence, and idiosyncratic senses he attaches to the concepts of public language. Neither the material nor the intentional accounts are fully accurate. While the material folk psychology explanation represents an attempt to account for the agent’s behaviour in categories that are too general and broad, the agent’s own intentional account is but his own interpretation of the real neurophysiological causes of his behaviour. The true folk psychology theory of behaviour results from the process of social interaction between the agent and external observers that simultaneously brings about a modification of the idealized categories of material folk psychology, re-assessment of the agent’s own intentional account, and a corresponding adjustment in the underlying brain states.

Keywords: Intentional Meaning Ascription, Material Meaning Ascription, Propositional Attitudes, Folk Psychology, Seymour

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 8, Issue 12, pp.35-44. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 702.287KB).

Krzysztof Swiatek

Humanities Department, Grant MacEwan University, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada


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