All posts by Destini Smith

Folk Psychology is Valuable

Eliminative Materialism, as Churchill discusses, is the theory that our common sense explanation of our behavior and mental states, folk psychology, simply doesn’t work and isn’t efficient enough to explain if mental states occur. Therefore, since folk psychology is false, and beliefs and desires are “posits” of that theory, beliefs and desires do not exist (Ravenscroft 2010).  Ravenscroft, author from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy argues that since there are really two senses of the term folk psychology and eliminative materialism tries to disprove folk psychology on both terms, but that might be taking it too far. In the article, “Folk Psychology as a Theory,” folk psychology is described with two underlying approaches: mindreading and platitudes. Mindreading is the internal sense of folk psychology that looks at describing and predicting people’s behaviors from their mental states, basically getting inside that person’s head and into their perspective to see that they are thinking. While the platitudes approach, tokened by David Lewis, is more like functionalism where theoretical terms, like mental states, are defined functionally by reference to their causal roles.

Ravenscroft thinks that Eliminative Materialism should only reject the mindreading approach to folk psychology since it seems falsifiable because it’s not based on a solid theory and does not account for our own mental states. However, As a psychology major myself, looking at the explanation of folk psychology, it makes sense. In order to describe, explain, predict, and optimize behavior, the basic goals of psychology, you must use some of the same attributes that come with folk psychology. The basic assumption that one must have in psychology, especially with psychotherapy and with counseling, is that mental states, beliefs and desires, exist. In saying this, I believe that the theories that are used in psychology that help the mindreading approach and make folk psychology a valid theory to use in explaining one’s behavior. One key issue with Churchland, which I do see as a valid precaution for Folk Psychology, is that he believes that it discusses other minds, but cannot account for one’s own mind—something extremely problematic in my opinion. However, I do not feel that this does not account for the entirety of the theory to be eliminated and false, because it does have valid points and is useful in many disciplines to facilitate other theories about the mind. However, I think that this is the key point that even Ravenscroft tries to reach.

Folk psychology cannot be used as a theory to describe the entirety of the mind because it has several aspects of the mind left out; therefore, it is best used in accompany with another theory, and even if this is a real problem with what many philosophers like Churchland to consider it a plausible theory, then I think they are missing the complexity of the human mind. The mind cannot be comprised within one theory that we have seen thus far. We had no idea about how the mind really works and the reason why psychology is so multifaceted in understanding why someone behaves the way they do and why the think certain things, because our behavior and our mind cannot be comprised within one specific idea of what the mind is and how it is controlled. All that being said, completely disregarding folk psychology when it is so useful in explaining behavior and mental states eliminates some key possible explanations of the mind. So is it safe to say that folk psychology shouldn’t be taken seriously, or is that really taking it too far and neglecting a whole aspect of a huge mental health field and eliminating it’s value?


Ravenscroft, Ian, “Folk Psychology as a Theory”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2010 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <>.

What is knowledge? How do we really know?

What is Knowledge? The readings for this week give us a precise, however, complicated explanation. In What is This Thing Called Knowledge, chapter 1, knowledge is defined as a true belief. In order for one to truly have knowledge, one must believe a proposition, and that proposition must actually be true. For example, if one believes the sky is purple, when it is clearly not, that person does not have knowledge. In the book What is This Thing Called Knowledge, Pritchard makes it clear to distinguish propositional knowledge (e.g. knowing that 2+2 is 4 and Obama is the president) versus ability knowledge, which is the “know-how” (e.g. knowing how to ride a bike or swim). However, the more interesting question comes up later in the chapter and even in the Plato article. Does someone have knowledge if they only have a true opinion by accident or by luck? If someone guesses that 15+15=30, and they so happen to be right, would their true opinion be actual knowledge? I suppose that the first opinion is most definitely not knowledge, but I do believe that in certain circumstances, such as the one listed above, the person will now gain knowledge from their true opinion by gaining evidence for it. Similar to the Plato article, where it states that true opinions are good if they are kept, but until they are tied down with actual evidence and reason, they cannot be knowledge (Plato 344). I agree with this statement whole heartedly that if someone gains evidence then they will have knowledge, but how can we tell if that person is gaining evidence and reason on why their belief is true? In simple examples like the 15+15=30, would the person need more evidence or practice before Socrates and Meno conclude that person knows the answer? In the chapter we read, Pritchard thinks that because the person has just guessed or just “merely got it right.” they will only get the question right some of the time, not all of the time like someone with actual knowledge would have. Basically anyone can believe something is true and there be a match with what is the case and our belief, or just getting it right, but there is more to knowledge than that (Pritchard 5). He states, “…To say that someone has knowledge is to credit that person with a certain kind of success [i.e actually believing a true proposition]” (Pritchard 5). He gives multiple examples of someone betting on a lucky horse just because of the name, and that horse surprisingly winning at the end and an archer versus someone who is not. In the horse example, I would agree that the latter may not have actual knowledge in betting or on the stats of the horses to make an intelligent bet only because he basing his true belief on luck or irrelevant factors—and in this case, the results are variable. With this example compared to the math example, it seems as though choosing luck every time will not make one knowledgeable, but if the person in the math example continues to make the true belief that 15+15=30 then eventually that person would have enough evidence, it seems, to have that as knowledge (no guessing required). Just as both articles stated, knowledge must be credited solely to the person and not to luck or by accident. I believe in this statement, however, I do believe that in simple examples like the math one I gave knowledge can be tricky to determine. When do you count that person’s answer as knowledge? Where do you draw the line where someone is just guessing and where someone finally learns and gets it right? Where does learning come into play in the question of knowledge—if it even has a place? And if learning doesn’t come into play then how do we really know anything and gain knowledge, or is it just something we have in a certain aspect or we don’t?