The cultural evolution of mind-modelling

Synthese 199 (1-2):1751-1776 (2020)
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I argue that uniquely human forms of ‘Theory of Mind’ are a product of cultural evolution. Specifically, propositional attitude psychology is a linguistically constructed folk model of the human mind, invented by our ancestors for a range of tasks and refined over successive generations of users. The construction of these folk models gave humans new tools for thinking and reasoning about mental states—and so imbued us with abilities not shared by non-linguistic species. I also argue that uniquely human forms of ToM are not required for language development, such that an account of the cultural origins of ToM does not jeopardise the explanation of language development. Finally, I sketch a historical model of the cultural evolution of mental state talk.
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Archival date: 2020-09-21
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