World-oriented mindreading
Jennifer Nagel (University of Toronto, St. George, University of Toronto at Mississauga)

August 9, 2019, 10:30am - 12:00pm
School of Philosophical, Historical, and International Studies, Monash University

Menzies Building, fifth floor, Room E561
20 Chancellor's Walk
Clayton, Melbourne 3800


Monash University


Abstract: Unlike inanimate objects, agents act in ways that are governed by their mental states: as creatures with minds, we learn about the world over time, perhaps imperfectly, and act on the basis of our goals, desires, knowledge and beliefs. Because accurate mental state attributions help us to predict and explain the behavior of agents, many theories of mental state attribution focus on the causal role of mental states in driving agentive behavior. Without questioning the value of agent-oriented mindreading, I want to focus on another side of mindreading, which we might call ‘world-oriented mindreading’: we learn a great deal about reality by watching how others are reacting to it, especially the parts of it that we can’t immediately see for ourselves. The observed behavior of an agent is especially informative about the world if we have some sense of that agent’s epistemic and motivational states.  I argue that we can gain fresh insight into the relationship between first-hand and second-hand knowledge from a better understanding of world-oriented mindreading.

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