Self-Knowledge and Folk Psychology: Perspectives from philosophy and psychiatry

June 27, 2014 - June 28, 2014
Radboud University Nijmegen


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  • VU Amsterdam


Kristin Andrews
York University
Dorit Bar-On
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Victoria McGeer
Princeton University
Johannes Roessler
University of Warwick

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In his classic 1956 article, Wilfrid Sellars provided an alternative to the introspectionist account of how we know our own mental states by claiming that psychological concepts are like theoretical concepts postulated in order to explain and predict behaviour. On Sellars’ view, folk psychology and self-knowledge are deeply entwined. Many philosophers since have followed Sellars’ central idea, either in terms of what has become known as the “theory theory” of mental state attribution, according to which knowledge of our own and others’ mental states is arrived at by a process of ‘mindreading’, or in terms of a “simulation theory”, which involves putting ourselves in the others’ shoes to find out which mental states should be attributed to the other.

Quite independently of each other, philosophers in the respective debates of folk psychology and self-knowledge have questioned this epistemic model of mental state ascription. In the debate on folk psychology, the theory-theory has been criticized for not taking into account the social, cultural and normative context in which mental state ascriptions are made. In the debate on self-knowledge, a move has been made towards ‘expressivist’ and ‘constitutive’ accounts of self-knowledge, which stress that the first person is not a mere spectator of her own mind.

This conference starts from the hypothesis that the respective debates on self-knowledge and folk psychology would benefit from a more integrative approach. In this light, the conference aims to explore the extent to which the debate on folk psychology is relevant for self-knowledge (and perhaps vice versa), but also to take into consideration insights from psychopathology, developmental psychology and other areas that might be relevant for getting a more complete picture of just what our ability for knowing our own minds — and failing to know it — consists in.

Organizing committee:
Fleur Jongepier (Radboud University Nijmegen)
Derek Strijbos (Dimence, Zwolle; Radboud University Nijmegen)
Leon de Bruin (AKC/VU Amsterdam; Radboud University Nijmegen)

The organisers gratefully acknowledge the support of the faculty of philosophy (RU Nijmegen), the International Office (RU Nijmegen) and the programme Science Beyond Scientism (AKC/VU Amsterdam).

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