All posts by Anjali Kambhampati

About Anjali Kambhampati

Joint Major in Economics and Mathematics. Junior Year.

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:



Over the past few weeks, I think I have been struggling to form an opinion about defining knowledge. We have looked at so many views of different philosophers that I finally came to terms with the fact that we, as humans, may not know anything. And in this week’s reading by Pritchard, the idea of Reliabilism states, if one has a justified belief that p, if and only if the belief is the result of a reliable process. For example if p=the sky is blue, but that is a factive sense, since the sky exists and is established that it exists through our brain (a sense organ). But then it had occurred to me, what if we went off of what Descartes talked about with A Priori: the evil demon that controls our experiences under the belief that we are making our own choices. This means that our beliefs would be justified. But is this necessarily reliable then? Pritchard defines reliabilism as something that, “holds that knowledge is reliably formed true belief. The idea behind such a position was to use the reliability requirement to capture the intuition that when one has knowledge one does not merely happen upon the truth, but rather one gets to the truth in a way that normally would ensure that one has a true belief” (Pritchard 63). However, we can alter this position by discussing epistemic virtues and cognitive faculties. If we take a conscientious person to determine that the sky is blue, it will be more probable that his/her belief is true, and we trust that her eyes (used to see that the sky is blue) are properly functioning.

However this method has its problem, such as the infamous problem of chicken sexing. Data has shown that the people distinguishing the chicks on what they see and touch is false, which questions the reliability of their claims. Are they using cognitive faculties or is this like Gettier’s situation in which this is purely luck. “The conflict of intuitions in play here relates to whether you think that it is always essential that ‘internal’ factors are involved in the acquisition of bona fide knowledge, such as the agent being in the possession of good reasons for believing what she does” (Pritchard 62). Because her belief is formed based on cognitive faculties, then her epistemic virtue is flawed because the conscientious decision was made based on “blindly” sorting the chicks. “…When it comes to cases like the chicken- sexer – as regards most instances of knowledge where both cognitive faculties and epistemic virtues are involved – they will tend to produce the same verdict.” I also found it interesting that epistemic externalists note that it may be that one can have knowledge while lacking certain grounds as long as they meet the other relevant conditions. What does this all mean? I think that it is important to understand that knowledge is defined differently by different people and the grounds in which a person may have knowledge may differ.

Other sources used:


Defining Knowledge and Its Understanding of JTB

The Classical Account of Knowledge, where knowledge is understood as a justified true belief was discussed in this week’s reading of Pritchard. In attempt to define knowledge, we must be able to see it from multiple aspects. So we consider the aspect where knowledge as a justified true belief. “Knowledge is to be understood as justified true belief, where a justification for one’s belief consists of good reasons for thinking that the belief in question is true” (Pritchard 28). This leads us to the JTB Account for Knowledge, which is an analysis that claims that justified true belief is necessary and sufficient for knowledge. Now if we accept this analysis of knowledge to be true, that raises even more concerns. What is truth? What is a proper justification for that truth? That is when Gettier comes along with an article that shows that the JTB Account for Knowledge may be false. With the use of logic, Gettier successfully proves that the consequent (P is true, S believes that P, and S is justified in believing P), is not jointly sufficient of the antecedent (if and only if S knows that P). “I shall argue that [the JTB Account of Knowledge] is false in that the conditions stated therein do not constitute a sufficient condition for the truth of the proposition that S knows that P” (Gettier 345). Basically, he proved that one could have a justified, true belief and still lack the knowledge of one’s belief because that belief could have been obtained through luck (Pritchard 23).

On the other hand, there is another philosopher, Richard Feldman, who published an article, An Alleged Defect in Gettier Counter-Examples, that essentially describes how Gettier’s work was flawed: “I conclude that even if a proposition can be justified for a person only if his evidence is true, or only if he knows it to be true, there are still counter-examples to the justified true belief analysis of knowledge of the Gettier sort” (Feldman 69). He came to this conclusion with the help of many other researchers, in which Feldman too, agrees to conclude that Gettier came up with his conclusion using false evidence.

This all leads back to the big question: How does one begin to define knowledge? It is evident that this comes with great difficulty, also known as the problem of the criterion. This basically means that one is only able to identify circumstances of knowledge only if one knows the criteria for what knowledge is and one can only know what the criteria for knowledge is as long as one is able to identify specifics of that knowledge? Well, one can start by finding the common variable in all cases and then become able to ascertain what knowledge really is.  But in the end, it can be concluded that one needs to understand knowledge in an entirely new way, where one cannot just simply believe in the truth of a question (Pritchard 29).

Other than the readings, I referred to:

Ichikawa, Jonathan and Steup, Matthias (2012) ‘The Analysis of Knowledge,’ Stanford Encyclopedia of   Philosophy, <>.