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Philosophical foundations of the theory theory of folk psychology

Maibom, Heidi Lene; (2000) Philosophical foundations of the theory theory of folk psychology. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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The Theory Theory is one account of our practice of attributing psychological states to ourselves and others. In the late 1980s, the advent of an alternative account, the Simulation Theory, provoked a new debate about the correctness of Theory Theory. In this debate, much confusion has arisen about the nature of Theory Theory. In this thesis, I try to dispel some of this confusion by outlining what must be the philosophical foundations of the Theory Theory. The thesis makes five main claims. First, I argue that it is unhelpful to regard any body of knowledge whatsoever as a theory. To do so does not illuminate the idea of a theory, and it makes the distinction between Theory Theory and Simulation Theory quite obscure. Second, I argue that we should understand the relevant sense of 'theory' in terms of the idea of a scientific theory. A scientific theory is composed of lawlike generalisations that contain interrelated terms that refer to entities and properties that are explanatory of the data, for example by being causally efficacious in the production of them, or by being related to them in some lawlike fashion. Third, I argue that Theory Theory is not committed to common sense functionalism, in either its semantic or metaphysical versions. Fourth, Theory Theory is not committed to us attributing psychological states to others and to ourselves on the same basis. Hence, it can allow that we can have distinctive knowledge of our own minds. Finally, I argue that Theory Theory should not maintain that we have tacit knowledge of folk psychological theory. From what we know of looks like, and from what current theories of tacit knowledge hold to be defining features of tacit knowledge, we must conclude that this knowledge is not tacit. The above conclusions form a basis of the Theory Theory which will make possible more specific formulations of it, and will facilitate and clarify further debate.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Philosophical foundations of the theory theory of folk psychology
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Philosophy, religion and theology; Folk psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10106271
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