In defence of folk psychology

Frank Jackson, Philip Pettit

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43 Scopus citations


Our argument has been that a commonsense functionalist approach to our folk conception of beliefs and desires shows that it is very likely that they exist, where commonsense functionalism is understood as implicitly defined by our folk practice in moving back and forth between behaviour, situations, and beliefs and desires. Completed neuroscience will indeed provide a complete story about when and why we do what we do, but will incorporate rather than eliminate beliefs and desires in this complete story. The irony is that our defence uses an account of folk psychology fully in accord with that provided by eliminativism's sympathizers when they insist that folk psychology is a theory. They see this insistence as opening the way for serious consideration of the possibility that folk psychology is radically mistaken. Any theory can be radically mistaken. But, of course, folk psychology is radically mistaken for a great many objects - the Taj Mahal, for instance. The Taj Mahal does not have beliefs and desires precisely because it does not satisfy the theory. Our point is that because the theory is a purely functional theory, the evidence that we satisfy it (and for that matter that the Taj Mahal does not) is peculiarly strong evidence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-54
Number of pages24
JournalPhilosophical Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1990
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy


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