Folk Psychology


When it comes to discussing the philosophy of the mind, it seems to be very difficult to come up with a definite answer about what happens inside the mind. Although this has been talked about for a long time within the philosophy community, approaching this question from many different perspectives, Paul Churchland defended a new view known as eliminative materialism. It is a theory that states that common-sense folk psychology is false and must be substituted with neuroscience.

It has been found that the objections to this view have come from its intentions, because beliefs and desires cannot be replaced with something material.  “More importantly, the recognition that folk psychology is a theory provides a simple and decisive solution to an old skeptical problem, the problem of other minds. The problematic conviction that another individual is subject of certain mental states is not inferred deductively from his behavior, nor is it inferred by inductive analogy from the perilously isolated instance of one’s own case” (Churchland 594).

The problem of other minds is that we cannot infer that others have minds from their behavior and it’s risky to generalize from our own case rather, the belief that others have minds is an explanatory hypothesis that belongs to folk psychology. For many philosophers mental states are very different from what is a physical state. He then goes into why folk psychology might really be false.  Other than the fact that there is a least a possibility that is false, and that its beliefs and desires can be an illusion, it is important to consider Folk Psychology’s failures and successes, its long term development as a theory, and how it fits into science. Churchland only had an issue trying to fit this psychology with the rest of science because the modern sciences are growing.

I found this article to really mess with my intuition about the mind. When he says that Folk Psychology doesn’t necessarily fit with science as a phenomenon to explain it anthropologically let alone scientifically, I was confused because we could say that it is based on an evolutionary adaptation. I think this because we are discussing our ability to communicate and vocalize our wants and beliefs, in order to share ideas with others.  And when we think about other species, communication is limited unlike the human species. But then in his final argument against Eliminativism, Churchland talks about how it is just a belief because it goes off the fact that we, as a species, desire to communicate with one another.

So I guess coming out of this article I have a few questions to pose to the class. I’m still not totally sure how I feel about this but: Why should we think that our original thought processes of what we would now describe as Folk Psychology to amount a theory at all?

Also I found this video that really made me think, so if you have time, its only 1:35:


Leave a Reply