On Direct Social Perception

Direct Social Perception (DSP) is the idea that we can non-inferentially perceive others’ mental states. In this paper, I argue that the standard way of framing DSP leaves the debate at an impasse. I suggest two alternative interpretations of the idea that we see others’ mental states: others’ mental states are represented in the content of our perception, and we have basic perceptual beliefs about others’ mental states. I argue that the latter interpretation of DSP is more promising and examine the kinds of mental states that plausibly could satisfy this version of DSP. Read full paper here.

Cognitive Empathy

We have various strategies available to us for understanding another person’s state of mind. Perspective taking may be achieved by mental simulation, i.e. by imagining yourself in another’s situation and figuring out what you would think and feel in that situation. Alternatively, you could consider all the relevant information about the person’s situation and folk psychology and draw a sophisticated inference to the best explanation of that person’s perspective. In this chapter, I examine the conditions under which we are likely to use these two familiar strategies for perspective taking and when they are likely to effective. In addition, I discuss a third underexplored pattern of reasoning

Phenomenology of Social Cognition

Can phenomenological evidence play a decisive role in accepting or rejecting social cognition theories? Is it the case that a theory of social cognition ought to explain and be empirically supported by our phenomenological experience? There is serious disagreement about the answers to these questions. This paper aims to determine the methodological role of phenomenology in social cognition debates. The following three features are characteristic of evidence capable of playing a substantial methodological role: novelty, reliability, and relevance. I argue that phenomenological evidence lacks all three criteria and, consequently, should not play a substantial role in debates about social cogni

Simulation Theory

There has been much philosophical and empirical work on the ST in the last decade or so, and as a result it is a flourishing theory. My discussion in this chapter attempts to clarify some aspects of the ST, specifically, the concept of simulation, high-level simulation, and low-level simulation. I argue that we have good reasons to adopt a more precise conception simulation for high-level and low-level simulation. These stricter criteria rule out some illegitimate examples of simulation, and they also capture what is truly distinctive about legitimate cases of simulation. Read full paper here.

Imagination Through Knowledge

Imagination seems to play an epistemic role in philosophical and scientific thought experiments, mindreading, and ordinary practical deliberations insofar as it generates new knowledge of contingent facts. However, it also seems that imagination is limited to revealing merely possible ways the world might be. The conjunction of these claims is the puzzle of knowledge through imagination. This chapter aims to resolve this puzzle. It is argued that imagination has an epistemic role to play, but it is limited to the context of discovery. Consideration of the Simulation Theory's so-called "threat of collapse” provides further evidence that imagination does not, on its own, yield new knowledge of

On Whether We Can See Intentions

Theorists from various fields argue that we can see others’ mental states, i.e., that we perceive others’ mental states with the same immediacy and directness that we perceive ordinary objects in the world. This view is known as Direct Perception. I evaluate Direct Perception by considering whether we can see intentions, a particularly promising candidate for Direct Perception. I argue that Direct Perception proponents equivocate on the notion of intention. Disambiguating the Direct Perception claim reveals a troubling dilemma for the view: either it is banal or highly implausible. The failure to establish that we can directly perceive intentions in any interesting sense spells trouble for t

Embodied Cognition and Theory of Mind

According to embodied cognition, the philosophical and empirical literature on theory of mind is misguided. Embodied cognition rejects the idea that social cognition requires theory of mind. It regards the intramural debate between the Theory Theory and the Simulation Theory as irrelevant, and it dismisses the empirical studies on theory of mind as ill conceived and misleading. Embodied cognition provides a novel deflationary account of social cognition that does not depend on theory of mind. In this paper, I describe embodied cognition’s alternative to theory of mind and discuss three challenges it faces. Read full paper here.

Mirror Neurons and Social Cognition

Mirror neurons are widely regarded as an important key to social cognition. Despite such wide agreement, there is very little consensus on how or why they are important. The goal of this paper is to clearly explicate the exact role mirror neurons play in social cognition. I aim to answer two questions about the relationship between mirroring and social cognition: What kind of social understanding is involved with mirroring? How is mirroring related to that understanding? I argue that philosophical and empirical considerations lead us to accord a fairly minimal role for mirror neurons in social cognition. Read full paper here.

Mirror Neurons Are Not Evidence For The Simulation Theory

Recently, there has been a resurgence of interest in theories of mindreading. New discoveries in neuroscience have revitalized the languishing debate. The discovery of so-called mirror neurons has revived interest particularly in the Simulation Theory (ST) of mindreading. Both ST proponents and theorists studying mirror neurons have argued that mirror neurons are strong evidence in favor of ST over Theory Theory (TT). In this paper I argue against the prevailing view that mirror neurons are evidence for the ST of mindreading. My view is that on an appropriate construal of their function, mirror neurons do not operate like simulation theorists claim. In fact, mirror neurons are more appropria

Introduction to Debates on Embodied Social Cognition

Embodied social cognition (ESC) aims to explicate how our embodiment shapes our knowledge of others, and in what this knowledge of others consists. Although there is much diversity amongst ESC accounts, common to all these accounts is the idea that our normal everyday interactions consist in non-mentalistic embodied engagements. In recent years, several theorists have developed and defended innovative and controversial accounts of ESC. These accounts challenge, and offer deflationary alternatives to, the standard cognitivist accounts of social cognition. As ESC accounts grow in number and prominence, the time has come for a dedicated, sustained debate on ESC and its most controversial and in

Overextended Cognition

Extended cognition is the view that some cognitive processes extend beyond the brain. One prominent strategy of arguing against extended cognition is to offer necessary conditions on cognition and argue that the proposed extended processes fail to satisfy these conditions. I argue that this strategy is misguided and fails to refute extended cognition. I suggest a better way to evaluate the case for extended cognition that should be acceptable to all parties, captures the intuitiveness of previous objections, and avoids theproblems with the strategy of offering necessary conditions on cognition. I conclude that extended cognition theorists have failed to establish the truth of extended cognit

Embodied Social Cognition

In this paper I evaluate embodied social cognition, embodied cognition’s account of how we understand others. I identify and evaluate three claims that motivate embodied social cognition. These claims are not specific to social cognition; they are general hypotheses about cognition. As such, they may be used in more general arguments for embodied cognition. I argue that we have good reasons to reject these claims. Thus, the case for embodied social cognition fails. Moreover, to the extent that general arguments forembodied cognition rest on these premises, they are correspondingly uncompelling. Read full paper here.

A Critique of Embodied Simulation

Social cognition is the capacity to understand and interact with others. The mainstream account of social cognition is mindreading, the view that we humans understanding others by interpreting their behavior in terms of mental states. Recently theorists from philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience have challenged the mindreading account, arguing for a more deflationary account of social cognition. In this paper I examine a deflationary account of social cognition, embodied simulation, which is inspired by recent neuroscientific findings. I argue that embodied simulation fails to present an adequate alternative to mindreading accounts of social cognition. I defend a philosophically and empir

Embodied Cognition and Mindreading

Recently, philosophers and psychologists defending the embodied cognition research program have offered arguments against mindreading as a general model of our social understanding. The embodied cognition arguments are of two kinds: those that challenge the developmental picture of mindreading and those that challenge the alleged ubiquity of mindreading. Together, these two kinds of arguments, if successful, would present a serious challenge to the standard account of human social understanding. In this paper, I examine the strongest of these embodied cognition arguments and argue that mindreading approaches can withstand the best of these arguments from embodied cognition. Read full paper h

Imagination and Other Scripts

One version of the Humean Theory of Motivation holds that all actions can be causally explained by reference to a belief–desire pair. Some have argued that pretense presents counter-examples to this principle, as pretense is instead causally explained by a belief-like imagining and a desire-like imagining. We argue against this claim by denying imagination the power of motivation. Still, we allow imagination a role in guiding action as a script . We generalize the script concept to show how things besides imagination can occupy this same role in both pretense and non-pretense actions. The Humean Theory of Motivation should then be modified to cover this script role. Read full paper here.

Review of Andy Clark's Supersizing the Mind

Andy Clark's Supersizing the Mind begins as a manifesto in which the components of an embodied theory of mind are carefully moved into place, proceeds to a defense of these components from recent critical attacks, and ends with words of caution to those who would seek to extract too much from the embodied perspective. Readers unfamiliar with Clark's earlier works are likely to find the result dazzling -- an exciting, novel, and coherent conception of the mind that dares one to abandon nearly every vestige of a comfortably Cartesian view of mind. Of course, philosophers of mind have, for the most part, already jettisoned the idea that minds are an ethereal sort of non-physical substance. We c

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