Healing Social Sciences’ Psycho-phobia: Founding Social Action and Structure on Mental Representations

  • Cristiano Castelfranchi
Part of the Studies in the Philosophy of Sociality book series (SIPS, volume 5)


I first argue against the “psycho-phobia” that has characterized the foundation of the social sciences and invalidates many social policies. I then present a basic ontology of social actions by examining their most important forms, with a special focus on pro-social actions, in particular Goal Delegation and Goal Adoption. These action types are the basic atoms of exchange, cooperation, group action, and organization. The proposed ontology is grounded in the mental representations (beliefs and goals) of the agents involved in social (inter)actions: the individual social mind. I will argue that such an analytical account of social action is needed to provide an adequate conceptual apparatus for social theory. In particular, I will try to show why we need to consider mind-reading and cognitive agents (and therefore, why we have to study the cognitive underpinnings of coordination and social action); why we need to consider agents’ goals about the mind of others in interaction and collaboration, as well to explain group loyality and social commitment to the other; why cognition, communication and agreement are not enough for modeling and implementing cooperation; why emergent pre-cognitive structures and constraints should be formalized; why emergent cooperation is also needed among planning and deliberative social actors; and why also the Nets with their topological structure and dynamics are in fact mind-based.


Psyco-phobia Social action Social mind Mind-reading Cooperation Emergent cooperation Functions 



I would like to thank the members of our research group GOAL I’m in debt with them, which were repeatedly working and discussing with me on these issues. I also want to thank Rainer Reisenzein for his precious revision, comments and criticisms that obliged me to better understand and to make several points more clearly.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies – CNRRomeItaly

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