What is Folk Psychology?

Churchland explains eliminative materialism and how it supports the idea that Folk Psychology is just a theory that will be eradicated with proper scientific data. In doing so, he says, “Knowledge of other minds thus has no essential dependence on knowledge of one’s own mind” (Churchland 594). I completely agree with this statement and think it is an excellent point in proving the implausibility of Folk Psychology. Conclusions reached by the beliefs of Folk Psychology can hardly be accepted as veritable. Since Folk Psychology, itself is simply a theory, and the integrity of any inferences made based solely on it, will, by extension, also be questioned.

I am in complete agreement with the idea of Folk Psychology being a theory. It seems to be completely empirical. Is there any way to test its soundness? Without measurable data, there is nothing to support the ideas behind Folk Psychology, which is cause enough to denote that it is just a theory and possibly one that is, ultimately false.

Eliminative materialism supports the fact that the existence of Folk Psychology is not real. My question is why anyone believes anything else. What is it about Folk Psychology that allows it to be so vague and lacking but still be widely accepted as though it were scientific fact? There are people who are really in the fact that Folk Psychology gives us legitimate fundamental explanations of behavior. It seems that underlying opinion about Folk Psychology is that while it may not be perfect or 100% true, it’s good enough.

I believe that the scientific method can be applied to all types of problems and situations, so while I don’t think Folk Psychology is adequate enough to be considered science I think it should be approached and analyzed as such. There basically already exists a hypothesis or some belief about it, so why hasn’t anything been tested to try to make this theory a law? It seems as though the commonly attitude about it is that it is, for some reason, useful and should stay around. The view of Realism is that most of it is true. I don’t think it should be allowed to thrive as a philosophical idea if it’s not accurate. What are we gaining from it, if it’s not all the way true?

If you understand better by listening, this video summarizes Churchland’s argument in about 5 minutes. >>> Eliminating Folk Psychology

Paul Churchland’s Eliminative Materialism and the Propositional Attitudes

3 thoughts on “What is Folk Psychology?

  1. I agree with you in that I would like to see testing done on Folk Psychology. I was initially quite surprised that no science-based tests had ever been conducted on the theory that is Folk Psychology. After doing some outside research, however, it seemed increasingly difficult to establish a lab-like setting in which accurate results from the testing of Folk Psychology could be obtained. It’s an innate trait. We aren’t taught how to use it, there are no manuals or guides that exist to further our knowledge on the fact, and we learn it through experiencing the world. Learning some intrinsic feature like this varies from person to person, so scientific testing would have to take that into account or else have their data be all over the place. Accounting for that highly fluctuating variable in a scientific setting is extremely difficult (and probably extremely expensive) which is probably no extensive tests on the matter have ever been done. This sentence from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy sums up quite nicely why it’s so difficult testing Folk Psychology, “capacity to predict human behavior in a wide range of circumstances” (Stanford 1). If Churchland is right on this matter, then we really don’t even need to worry about spending incredible amounts of money to overcome scientific variables because advances in science will end up disproving Folk Psychology.


  2. I agree with your comments on Folk Psychology and wanting it to be tested so that it can be support with measurable data. Without measurable data we cannot support the ideas that hold Folk Psychology. This tells us that although Folk Psychology is a theory, it is a bad theory, and ultimately false. Eliminative materialism supports that falsity of Folk Psychology because it claims that our common-sense psychological framework is false and a misleading cause of human behavior and cognitive activity. I too was puzzled why after the uproar of disproval towards Folk Psychology why anyone would take as “scientific fact” as you put it. Bradley’s statement that we don’t need to worry about overcoming scientific variables in experiments to to test Folk Physiology is valid. Churchland and eliminative materialism both support the idea that such things as “belief” or “desire as in Folk Physcology will eventually be dismissed as myth by explanations through neuroscience and actual brain material.

  3. I also agree that testing should be done on the use of folk psychology and that it is somewhat surprising that people believe it to be true. However I feel that you added the reason that people do in the post ” its good enough”. I feel that the understanding of mental states can be a very difficult process that is why people are willing to believe something that works to a reasonable degree.

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