Justification, Conversation, and Folk Psychology

Theoria : An International Journal for Theory, History and Fundations of Science 34 (1):73-88 (2019)
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The aim of this paper is to offer a version of the so-called conversational hypothesis of the ontogenetic connection between language and mindreading (Harris 1996, 2005; Van Cleave and Gauker 2010; Hughes et al. 2006). After arguing against a particular way of understanding the hypothesis (the communicative view), I will start from the justificatory view in philosophy of social cognition (Andrews 2012; Hutto 2004; Zawidzki 2013) to make the case for the idea that the primary function of belief and desire attributions is to justify and normalize deviant patterns of behaviour. Following this framework, I elaborate upon the idea that development of folk psychological skills requires the subjects to engage in conversationally mediated joint and cooperative activities in order to acquire the conceptual capacity of ascribing propositional attitudes. After presenting the general version of the hypothesis, I present several testable sub-hypotheses and some psychological studies that give empirical plausibility to the hypothesis.

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Víctor Fernandez Castro
University of Granada


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