Belief as perspective
In this chapter we compare and contrast three conceptions of commonsense-psychological explanations of intentional actions: theory theory, simulation theory, and teleology. We elaborate, and make a case for, a teleological account, and argue that it can help to shed light on a number of central issues in current theory of mind research, including the nature of belief understanding and the dissociation between young children’s performance of ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ false-belief tasks. Central to our argument are two distinctions. First, we distinguish between a more simple-minded and a more sophisticated conception of intentional actions: ‘pure teleology’ takes actions to be explained by the (typically non-psychological) facts that provide agents with reasons for action; ‘teleology-in-perspective’ makes sense of intentional actions in terms of the agent’s propositional attitudes (i.e. her perspective on her reasons). Second, we contrast two forms of action understanding: explicit and implicit. The dissociation between different measures of belief understanding, we argue, is best explained by the hypothesis that young children’s explicit understanding of intentional action is a matter of ‘pure teleology’, and that their success on ‘indirect’ tests reflects an implicit non-teleological theory of behaviour.
Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.
If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.