Folk psychology and folk epistemology

The first subproject, ran from October 2006 to October 2009, and focused on 'Theory of mind' and 'Folk epistemology'.

In our everyday dealings with one another we often predict, explain, or simply understand actions in terms of the mental states behind them. We attribute to one another such states as beliefs, desires, intentions, emotions, and so on, which we think of as being causally responsible for particular actions.

This capacity for explaining actions and behaviours in psychological terms is known as 'folk psychology'. Likewise, we have an everyday understanding of the norms that govern reasoning and justification, which might be called our 'folk epistemology'.

This subproject examined a cluster of philosophically interesting questions about folk psychology and folk epistemology. Questions here included:

  • What aspects of folk psychology and folk epistemics are universal, and what aspects are culturally variable?

  • What type of variability is there, and what is responsible for it?

  • Do people in different cultures produce systematically different meta-theoretical accounts of folk psychology?

  • What can the study of folk psychology and folk epistemics tell us about the fundamental organisation of the human mind and about what features of the mind are distinctively human?

  • If folk epistemic norms are culturally variable, what are the consequences of this for traditional philosophical epistemology and theories of rationality?

Conference on Culture and the Mind: Folk psychology, folk epistemology, and cultural transmission

11-13 September 2009

This public conference was the final event associated with the first phase of the AHRC Culture and the Mind project, which has been exploring cross-cultural universals and cross-cultural variability in the domains of folk psychology and folk epistemology.

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