Reconstructing Folk Psychology is the outcome of a research that looks into the possibility of locating folk psychological structures and issues within the domain of Indian Philosophy. Starting from the concepts of belief, desire to perception and the consciousness of time and even the way in which we address ourselves, the ‘I’, the authors of the various articles in this anthology have successfully explored folk psychological notions as founind in contemporary Western Philosophy of Mind in the Indian context. This volume thus tries to locate and reconstruct folk psychological issues within Indian philosophy, paying particular attention to the classical Indian tradition.
Needless to say, each of the authors in this volume is an expert in his or her respective area and these collective reflections on the nature of Indian folk psychology are bound to enrich our understanding of the mind in Indian philosophy.
This short but interesting book should capture the interest and attention of “who is who” in the domain of Indian philosophy and psychology.
Proyash Sarkar teaches Philosophy at Jadavpur University. He did his Ph.D. in Philosophy in 2002 from the same university. He also taught at Rabindra Bharati University. He authored a book entitled Jaym, Songshoybad O Juktisiddhi Proshonge, 2009 and co-edited the book Manodarshon: Shorirbad O Tar Bikopo, 2002 (both in Bengali). He has extensively published articles on Philosophy of Mind, Epistemology, Nyaya, Ethics, and Caste and Gender issues in national and international journals. He visited the University of Liverpool as Charles Wallace India Visiting Fellow in 2005.
Maushumi Guha did her M.Phil. in Philosophy from the University of Cambridge with specialization in the Philosophy of Mind and her Ph.D. from Jadavpur University on the Theory-Simulation Debate on folk psychology. She has taught at Scottish Church College and Rabindra Bharati University prior to 2205when she joined Jadavpur University. She specializes in the Philosophy of Mind, and folk psychological studies are her forte. Along with the editors, she had envisaged a series of volumes on the nature of folk psychology in Indian Philosophy. This is the first of the series.
Madhucchanda Sen teaches Philosophy at Jadavpur University. She has authored Introduction to Critical Thinking (2009), Critical Thinking, Academic Writing and Presentation Skills (with Nair and Anderson, 2010), and Externalism and Mental (2015). Her areas of specialization are Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Language, Epistemology and Critical Thinking.
The Centre of Advanced Study in Philosophy, Jadavpur University, is a cauldron of ideas where intellectual gatherings churn fresh, new ideas from timeless ingredients. The members of the Reading Group in Philosophy of Mind meet every Tuesday to read, discuss, critique and philosophize over important classical and new texts in the area. One important issue that the Group has engaged with for the last five years is folk psychology.
Folk psychology is fundamental to the contemporary study of mind and mind-reading in Western philosophy of mind. It cuts across several domains in philosophy- philosophy of mind, metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language-and even cuts across philosophical traditions and streams like analytic and continental philosophy.
After studying the nature of folk psychology in Western philosophy of mind and recognizing the interdisciplinary nature of this subject matter, our Group ventured into a new research project titled “Reconstructing Indian Folk Psychology”. The aim of this project was to locate and reconstruct folk psychological issues within Indian philosophy, paying particular attention to the classical Indian traditions. This volume is a result of research, discussion and critical analyse of folk psychology in Western philosophy of mind followed by an intellectual exercise in reconstructing folk psychology within Indian philosophy from many different angles.
We are grateful to the University Grants Commission for its generous financial support without this publication could not have been possible.
We would also like to express our deep gratitude to Professor Amita Chatterjee and Dr Maitreyee Datta for not only contributing to the volume but seeing it through from its conception to the production.
What Is Folk Psychology?
Folk or commonsense psychology, as it is popularly called, is composed of our common beliefs about the mind. It is everything we need to have a conception of the mind. It is the epistemological and semantic backdrop of all our concerns about the mind. It provides us with the idea that we mind-endowed beings and helps us interact with each other in a mentalistic way. Folk psychology then is what makes us think that we have mental states and that we act on the basis of those mental states. It is the ideas that mental states have causal power. Folk psychology paints a causal picture of the mind in which mental states, actions and external environmental states are related to each other causally. An email from my sister is an input from external environment which may give me great happiness, which is a mental state and which may in turn make me send her an email, which is an activity involving physical action and linguistic acumen.
Folk psychology is a conceptual structure through which all our mentalistic experiences get filtered. This essentially means that our mentalistic experiences are not preconceptual. The idea that all experience (that is, experience as a blanket phenomenon) is conceptual is the outcome of a philosophical way of looking at perception. According to this philosophical attitude towards perceptual experience, the objects of experience do not appeal to us in any bare form, directly to our senses. They appear in the clothing of concepts. This idea is explored at great length by Wilfrid Sellars (1956/1997).
Barbara von Eckardt (1994:300) describes folk psychology in the following words:
What is folk psychology? Until recently, many philosophers would have answered something like this: folk psychology is a “conceptual framework” and /or principles” (perhaps, largely implicity) used by ordinary people to understand, explain and predict their own and other people’s behaviour and mental states.
Recent developments in this area, particularly, the advent of the Simulation Theory, have called for a more “neutral formulation” for which, von Eckardt (1994:300) considers folk psychology.
to consist, at a minimum, of (a) a set of attributive, explanatory, and (b) a set of notions or concepts used in those practices. Whether it also consists of a set of laws, generalizations, principles, or rules that implicated in (a) or that help to define (b)... [is] an open question. Folk psychology in the least is the conceptual backdrop against which our descriptions, explanations and predictions of mental states take place. A plethora of mentalistic concepts like belief, desire, intention, hope, sorrow, happiness and other occupy our minds. It is these concepts that we deploy when we ascribe mental states to others. For instance, we say, “She wept because she knew that her loss was irreparable” or “He shivered at the thought that he had just had a narrow escape from death.
Now, folk psychology, as described above, seems to play a central role in mind-reading-our capacity to understand each other’s minds, ascribe thoughts and feelings to each other and interpret behaviour in the light of mental states. However, every aspect of mentation, from perception to action, thought and memory to mental-state ascription, solving puzzles to taking decisions, involves folk psychology and its immense conceptual repertoire. The role of folk psychology may even be extended and philosophically explored in the perception of temporal passage and our sense of time. To say the least, folk psychology is the very background of our understanding of ourselves and other. It is what gives of “I” and “You”.
In Western Philosophy of Mind, theories have deeply dwelt upon the nature of folh psychology and its application to mind-reading. They are the Theory Theory Theory and the Simulation Theory. Even though the focus of these two theories has been on a particular cognitive domain, namely, mindreading the debate between the two theories has brought to light some of the most important questions and concerns about folk psychology, which may be extended to studies of perception, action, memory, language and other cognitive domains.
To understand the basic point of the debate between the Theory Theory and the Simulation Theory, we must see folk psychology not only as a conceptual structure but also as a collection of bodily activities that include verbal or written language: activities like sighing, waving, raising eyebrows, weeping, pouting and the like, or screaming, swearing, exclaiming and other linguistic practices. Theory theorists emphasize more on the causal-explanatory role of the concepts in folk psychology and their application to particular instances in folk psychology and their application to particular instances of explanation and prediction via folk psychological generalizations while simulationists usually emphasize the other feature of folk psychology, namely, the activities or practices. It is not the case that the Theory Theory accepts folk psychology as a conceptual repertoire while the Simulation Theory rejects that. It is also the case that the Simulation Theory takes folk psychology to be a collection of mind-oriented practices while the Theory Theory rejects that. The difference between the Theory theorists and the simulationists lies in the fact that the former and not the former and not the latter admit of psychological laws or law-like generalizations and consider folk psychology to be a theory. The other two features of folk psychology (namely, that folk psychology is a collection of interactive, social or self-directed activities and that folk psychology is a conceptual repertoire) are probably acceptable to both these groups in different degress.
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