Recently, several scholars have argued in support of the idea that folk psychology involves a primary capacity for regulating our mental states and patterns of behavior in accordance with a bunch of shared social norms and routines (Andrews, Do Apes Read Minds? Toward a new folk psychology, MIT Press, Cambridge, 2012; Andrews, Southern Journal of Philosophy 53:50–67, 2015; McGeer, Folk psychology re-assessed, Springer Press, Dordrecht, 2007; McGeer, Philosophical Explorations 18(2):259–281, 2015; Zawidzki, Philosophical Explorations 11(3):193–210, 2008; Zawidzki, Mindshaping: A new framework for understanding human social cognition, MIT Press, Cambridge, 2013). This regulative view shares with the classical Dennettian intentional stance (Dennett, Brainstorms: Philosophical essays on mind and psychology, Harvester Press, Brighton Sussex, 1981, 1987) its emphasis on the normative character of human socio-cognitive capacities. Given those similarities, it makes sense to assess the regulative view by considering some of the classical arguments against the normative nature of the intentional stance (Goldman 2006; Fodor, Mind 94(373):76–100, 1985; Stich, Philosophical Topics 12(1):39–62, 1981; Stich, The fragmentation of reason: Preface to a pragmatic theory of cognitive evaluation, MIT Press, Cambridge, 1990). The aim of this paper is to argue that the priority that the regulative view lays on the pluralistic and regulative character of folk psychology leaves the theory well-placed to resist these arguments. In this sense, the regulative view possesses better theoretical options to defend the normative character of human social cognition.
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Although I place Andrews, McGeer and Zawidzki under the same label, they emphasize different aspects of the approach. While Zawidzki concentrates on the evolutionary and developmental plausibility of the view, McGeer provides a more descriptive approximation of everyday regulative practices, and Andrews emphasizes the plurality of strategies we deploy for predicting and explaining. In spite of this, the different versions are similar enough to be regarded as the same kind of approach.
Andrews (2012) dubs this aspect the symmetry thesis. She argues that the symmetry thesis is problematic because it has obvious counterexamples. For instance, our mental state attributions are required to explain actions we are not able to predict. We can explain our friend’s behavior of quitting his job because he was under too much stress even though we were not able to predict he would quit. On the other hand, we can predict that our neighbor is going to be back home at 4.00 p.m. because he always comes back home at that time, but still, we do not know why he does it.
Different studies in empirical economics, anthropology and evolutionary biology emphasize a strong human tendency to punish counter-normative behavior (Richerson and Boyd 2005; Fehr and Gätcher 2002; Henrich 2004). Those studies confirm the existence of a human tendency to punish in spite of the cost. This behavior could be considered irrational. However, this is entirely understandable from a framework where the maintenance of social norms is crucial.
Arguably, character traits, habits and other folk psychological concepts work in a similar manner. For instance, we say of someone that she is irascible when she overreacts in certain contexts one wouldn’t expect from certain normalized patterns of action.
Thanks to an anonymous reviewer at this journal for bringing this to my attention.
Certainly, one may claim that the distinction between behavioral appearance and mental reality is neutral on the ontological debate because the distinction reflects what the interpreters take themselves to be attributing instead of what ascriptions really refer to. However, even if the work of Zawidzki can be interpreted in this way, the accusation of fictionalism remains.
Expressivism in metaethics distinguishes between descriptive and expressive concepts in order to explain the disanalogy between purely descriptive expression (the phone is on the table) and expressive expressions (eating meat is wrong). According to them, expressions such as ‘eating meat is wrong’ express two ideas: (1) that certain behavior (eating meat) is not permitted for a set of standards N and (2) the speaker accepts N (Gibbard 1990). Similar expressivist ideas can be found in semantics (Lance and O’leary-Hawthrone 1997) meta-epistemology (Chrisman 2012) and philosophy of logics (Brandom 2000).
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I would like to thank Fernando Martínez-Manrique, Manuel de Pinedo and the rest of the members of the Granada Gang for their valuable comments and suggestions.
The Funding was provided by Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (Grant Nos. FFI2015-65953-P, FFI2016.-80088-P, FPI BES-2012-052157).
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Fernandez Castro, V. Regulation, Normativity and Folk Psychology. Topoi 39, 57–67 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11245-017-9511-7
- Folk psychology
- Intentional stance