, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 139-163

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Making Folk Psychology Explicit

The Relevance of Robert Brandom’s Philosophy for the Debate on Social Cognition
  • Derek W. StrijbosAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, Radboud University Nijmegen Email author 
  • , Leon C. de BruinAffiliated withInstitute for Philosophy, Ruhr-University Bochum


One of the central explananda in the debate on social cognition is the interpretation of other people in terms of reasons for action. There is a growing dissatisfaction among participants in the debate concerning the descriptive adequacy of the traditional belief-desire model of action interpretation. Applying this model as an explanatory model at the subpersonal level threatens to leave the original explanandum largely unarticulated. Against this background we show how Brandom’s deontic scorekeeping model can be used as a valuable descriptive tool for making folk psychology explicit. Following Brandom’s non-formalist and non-mentalistic account of reason discourse, we suggest that the process of making sense of others is best captured as proceeding from a ‘factive’ baseline. According to this picture the ascription of beliefs and desires is not the default interpretation strategy, but rather the result of prior scaffolding of the agent’s deontic score. We close by discussing Brandom’s model in the light of empirical findings on the ontogeny of reason attribution.


Robert Brandom Folk psychology Belief-desire psychology Action interpretation Mindreading Reasons for action