The Force-field Puzzle and Mindreading in Non-human Primates


DOI: 10.1007/s13164-011-0077-9

Cite this article as:
Bermúdez, J.L. Rev.Phil.Psych. (2011) 2: 397. doi:10.1007/s13164-011-0077-9


What is the relation between philosophical theorizing and experimental data? A modest set of naturalistic assumptions leads to what I term the force-field puzzle. The assumption that philosophy is continuous with natural science, as captured in Quine’s force-field metaphor, seems to push us simultaneously towards thinking that there have to be conceptual constraints upon how we interpret experimental data and towards thinking that there cannot be such conceptual constraints, because all theorizing must be accountable to data and observation. The key to resolving the force-field puzzle is to take a more nuanced view of how conceptual constraints can be accountable to data and observation. This can be done by developing conceptual arguments in conjunction with interpretative frameworks for making sense of experimental evidence. This paper shows how attending to important differences between different types of mindreading yields tools for interpreting experimental and observational data in a manner consistent with a (conceptually derived) constraint that I have developed elsewhere. This is the first-order constraint that second-order thinking, or thinking about thinking, is only available to language-using creatures.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Liberal ArtsTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA

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