Autonomy of Folk Psychology Reconsidered

Taavi Laanpere


It has been a recurring theme in the philosophy of mind that folk psychology is autonomous. This paper has three goals. First, it aims to clarify what the term 'folk psychology' could mean in different contexts. Four widespread senses of the term are distinguished and the one eligible for autonomy is picked out. Secondly, a classic argument for autonomy is introduced and motivated. This is the argument from the normativity of folk psychology, based on its constitutive rationality. According to this argument, mentalistic concepts are to be understood as components of prescriptions for a rational course of action, rather than descriptions. Thirdly, limits of the argument from normativity are demonstrated. At best, the argument applies to merely a small segment of explanations in terms of mentalistic vocabulary, as the latter is meant to convey much more than simply normative content about the rational profile of an agent.


folk psychology, autonomy, normativity

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