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On deflationary accounts of human action understanding

Borg, E. ORCID: (2018) On deflationary accounts of human action understanding. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 9 (3). pp. 503-522. ISSN 1878-5158

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1007/s13164-018-0386-3


A common deflationary tendency has emerged recently in both philosophical accounts and comparative animal studies concerned with how subjects understand the actions of others. The suggestion emerging from both arenas is that the default mechanism for understanding action involves only a sensitivity to the observable, behavioural (non-mental) features of a situation. This kind of ‘smart behaviour reading’ thus suggests that, typically, predicting or explaining the behaviour of conspecifics does not require seeing the other through the lens of mental state attribution. This paper aims to explore and assess this deflationary move. In §1 I clarify what might be involved in a smart behaviour reading account via looking at some concrete examples. Then in §2 I critically assess the deflationary move, arguing that, at least in the human case, it would in fact be a mistake to assume that our default method of action understanding proceeds without appeal to mental state attribution. Finally in §3 I consider briefly how the positive view proposed here relates to discussions about standard two-system models of cognition.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Interdisciplinary Research Centres (IDRCs) > Centre for Cognition Research (CCR)
Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Humanities > Philosophy
ID Code:75143


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