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Folk-psychology and Consciousness

Page history last edited by philosophyofsocialcognition 16 years, 3 months ago

Folk Psychology and Consciousness   



There is no generally agreed definition of consciousness, but it may involve thoughts, sensations, perceptions, moods, EMOTIONS, dreams, and an awareness of self. One famous description of consciousness was Thomas Nagel (1974) states that “if there is something it is like to be the bat—something for that bat itself—then the bat is conscious. If there is nothing it is like to be the bat, then it is not.” Any creature that evolved to have intelligence, perception, memory, and EMOTION would necessarily be conscious as well. You probably cannot answer what it’s likes to be a glass thus we can conclude that the glass has no consciousness.


Folk Psychology is an our intuitive framework that aims to explain and predict human behaviour. According to the theory view, action are be theorized in a scientific-like fashion to help us explain and predict one another. On the simulation view, Folk Psychology consists in simulating the states of others, using ourselves as a model; we think for another as we were in other’s shoes. The theory view and simulation view point out that people act for reasons, and that those reasons are mentally represented propositional attitudes, such as BELIEF AND DESIRES.


Traditional accounts of Folk Psychology state that actions are explained and predicted by belief-desire attribution. FP supposes that our actions are performed for reasons, and it can be explained and predicted only by beliefs and desires. For example, Mary desires to get a cold drink and believes there is soda in the fridge, so Mary take in the the fridge what she desired. People act according to their belief and desire and this is what makes them predictable and explainable. In this view, only desire and belief are necessary for evaluating a person’s action; other mental states attribution such as emotion, self-awareness, etc., are considered irrelevant.


Most of our knowledge of folk-psychology comes from conceptual analysis and social psychology. However, our first-person, conscious, phenomenal experience of social interactions can also be informative about the nature of interpretation. As Gallagher (2007) points out, when we try to understand a person’s action there is no experiential evidence that we simulate or theorize; we often understand a person’s action based on our common pragmatic or socially contextualized interactions. When we see one’s action, we directly perceive the meaning in the action; we see the happiness or we see the anger, we immediately see their action, emotion or intentions.   



See also:






  • Andrews, K. (2007). It’s in your nature: a pluralistic folk psychology. Synthese.
  • Goldie, P. (2007). There Are Reasons and Reasons. In D. Hutto & M. Ratcliffe (Eds.), Folk Psychology Re-Assessed (pp. 103-114). Dordrecht: Springer
  • Gallagher, Shaun, (2007) Logical and phenomenological arguments against simulation theory. Folk Psychology re assessed,( 63-78) Springer, 2007
  • Nagel, T. (1974). What Is It Like to Be a Bat? Philosophical Review, 83, 435-450.



- Anna Chow, University of Toronto

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