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Theories of Mind and ‘The Commonsense View’

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It is widely believed that people are sometimes directly aware of their own psychological states and consequently better placed than others to know what the contents of those states are. This (‘commonsense’) view has been challenged by Alison Gopnik. She claims that experimental evidence from the behaviour of 3– and 4–year–old children both supports the theory theory and shows that the belief in direct and privileged knowledge of one’s own intentional states is an illusion. I argue (1) that the experimental evidence is not inconsistent with the commonsense view and that Gopnik’s central thesis assumes a particularly crude perceptual account of self–knowledge to which that view is not committed, and (2) that the commonsense view is neutral as between the theory theory and other theories of mind.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand [email protected]

Publication date: 2002-11-01

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