Like many philosophical texts that I have read in this class Churchland’s article changed my views multiple times in the minutes I was reading. The way many of these texts are written sometimes has you convinced of one thing and then quickly makes you realize how foolish you were for ever believing that idea in the first place. When first reading Churchland’s description of folk psychology I thought that this theory of mind seemed very sensible and seemed to work with my current beliefs of the way the world works. However, after reading his section “Why Folk Psychology might (really) be false” I was completely convinced of the opposite. All of his arguments against folk psychology made sense but one critique that Churchland just barely touched on really caught my attention.
Churhland states “One particularly outstanding mystery is the nature of the learning process itself, especially where it involves large-scale conceptual change, and especially as it appears in its pre-linguistic or entirely nonlinguistic form (as in infants and ani- mals), which is by far the most common form in nature. “ (596) I had not thought of this idea when originally agreeing with the ideas of folk psychology and was especially intrigued by Churchland mention of animals who have no capacity for language. I did a quick Google search for “folk psychology animals” and immediately came up with results. The most prominent results were about a book called Do Apes Read Minds?: Toward a New Folk Psychology by Kristin Andrews. Although I couldn’t get a hold of actual pages from the book I found a great summary, which I have cited below, that shed light on Kristin Andrews’ argument.
Andrews discusses that modern science and study has made many realize how similar apes and other primates are to us as humans, even in terms of “doing” folk psychology. It seems that chimps track goals as well as perceptual awareness in other chimps. These animals use past experience and memory as well as their current states to understand other chimps they come in contact with. However, the traditional view of folk psychology as we have seen from Churchland has a lot to do with someone being able to understand beliefs. Many people are extremely hesitant to say animals like chimps can understand the beliefs of other chimps or even have beliefs themselves. Even experiments that have been done seem to suggest that chimps cannot understand false beliefs and possibly beliefs in general. So there seems to be a bit of a problem here because chimps are extremely social and complex animals who understand each other and can predict and even foresee the actions of others, yet they seem to not have the capability to understand beliefs, a key part of folk psychology. Andrews goes on to suggest that because of this information and much more that she talks about in her book a new definition of folk psychology or it must be abandoned as a theory entirely.