3 - Simulation and self-knowledge: a defence of theory-theory  pp. 22-38

Simulation and self-knowledge: a defence of theory-theory

By Peter Carruthers

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In this chapter I shall be attempting to curb the pretensions of simulationism. I shall argue that it is, at best, an epistemological doctrine of limited scope. It may explain how we go about attributing beliefs and desires to others, and perhaps to ourselves, in some cases. But simulation cannot provide the fundamental basis of our conception of, or of our knowledge of, minded agency.


Let me begin by pinning my colours to the mast: I am a theory-theorist. I believe that our understanding of mentalistic notions – of belief, desire, perception, intention, and the rest – is largely given by the positions those notions occupy within a folk-psychological theory of the structure and functioning of the mind. To understand one of these notions is to know – at least implicitly – sufficiently much of the corpus of folk-psychology, and to know the role within that theory of the notion in question. I also maintain that children's developing competence with these mentalistic notions involves them in moving through a series of progressively more sophisticated theories – for example, moving from desire-perception theory, through a copy-theory of belief, to full-blown, intentionalistic, belief-desire theory (see Wellman, 1990).