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The Narrative Practice Hypothesis Sept 24-26, 2007, Self, Intersubjectivity and Neuroscience Nicholas Copernicus University, Torun Poland Prof. Daniel.

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Presentation on theme: "The Narrative Practice Hypothesis Sept 24-26, 2007, Self, Intersubjectivity and Neuroscience Nicholas Copernicus University, Torun Poland Prof. Daniel."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Narrative Practice Hypothesis Sept 24-26, 2007, Self, Intersubjectivity and Neuroscience Nicholas Copernicus University, Torun Poland Prof. Daniel D. Hutto University of Hertfordshire, Department of Humanities, de Havilland Campus, Hatfield, AL10 9AB, England email:

2 Our Everyday Understanding of Intentional Action This familiar abilities travels under many names:   Folk or Commonsense Psychology;   Naïve Psychology;   Homo Sapiens Psychology;   The Person Theory of Humans;   Intentional/Propositional Attitude Psychology. Broadly construed, it is the explanation of action in terms of reasons – where this involves answering a particular kind of ‘why’-question using the idiom of mental predicates in a structured way (beliefs, desires, hopes, fears, etc.) I call this Folk Psychology (Sensu Stricto)

3 FP sensu stricto is a complex skill To master it one must have: 1. 1.A practical command of the core propositional attitudes (e.g. B/Ds); 2. 2.A capacity to represent the objects that these take – propositional contents as specified by that-clauses; 3. 3.Some grasp of the appropriate structural relations between the attitudes and other key psychological players (such as perception and emotion – this need not be fine-grained); 4. 4.An ability to apply all of the above sensitively (adjusting for the relevant differences of particular cases by factoring in a range of variables such as a person’s character, circumstances, etc.).

4 How Fundamental?   “[FP] and the capacity to negotiate the social world are not the same thing, but the former seems to be necessary for the latter [….] our basic grip on the social world depends on our being able to see our fellows as motivated by beliefs and desires we sometimes share and sometimes do not” (Currie and Sterelny, 2000, p.145) “We constantly engage in CSP… [for social dealings]... its obligatory” (Sehon 2005, p. 10).   FP is “the psychological foundation of our ability to be social animals and to become full members of society” (Stueber 2006, p. 1). It is the basis of certain social practices (e.g. moral, legal).   Nothing answers to the name FP (at least as philosophers and psychologists typically construe it). They argue that it is nothing but a philosopher’s imposition (Ratcliffe 2007, Morton 2007).

5 How Evolutionarily Basic is FP? Is FP an exclusively human ability or one shared with other species? Primates exhibit strong social intelligence (SIH, Jolly 1966, Humphrey 1976) Tactical deception, third-party monitoring alliances, cooperative hunting, etc. Do any of these capacities imply the existence of FP abilities’? Only 10.7% of chimps passed the non- verbal variant of the ‘location change’ false belief test (Call & Tomasello 1999). In the animal kingdom even our closest living cousins seem to lack the basics for true FP abilities! (Papineau 2003, Povinelli & Vonk 2003, Tomasello, Hare & Call 2003a, Sterelny 2003, Call & Tomasello 2005)

6 FP is just the Tip of the Iceberg   There is only a very limited need for FP (stricto sensu).   We get by in our primary interpersonal engagements without calling on FP at all. This applies to interpersonal interactions of both children and adults.   We rarely call on FP to determine why the other has acted or how they will act in most contexts.   Typically we rely on a shared understanding of social roles and situational norms. These inform the bulk of our everyday expectations (Bruner 1990; Bermúdez 2003, Ratcliffe 2007).

7 The ‘Theory of Mind’ Construal It is difficult to write today about understanding people without reference to the words ‘theory of mind’. An incredible 1 percent of academic publications in psychology in 2003-4 that refer to infants or children also refer to the term ‘theory of mind’. And the manner in which the term is used is awesomely matter-of-fact - with a taken-for- grantedness hitherto reserved for those other staples of psychology such as ‘growth spurt’, ‘toilet training’, ‘short-term memory’ and ‘secure attachment’ - Reddy and Morris 2004, 647

8 The Spectatorial Assumption Orthodox wisdom takes it for granted that:   The primary function of FP is to provide tolerably accurate third- person predictions and explanations about behaviour by attributing causally efficacious inner mental states – i.e. representational states.   This might also be called the 3 rd personal ‘mindreading’ or ‘mentalizing’ assumption.   The central question occupying the field has been: What allows us to reliably mindread?   The hope is to find a psychological “mechanism that leads to justified true beliefs about the mental states of other people” (Steuber 2006, 17, emphasis original).

9 The Theory Theory/Simulation Debate Standard answer: High level mindreading is achieved by using:   A theory – a structured network of principles about PAs, the core of which details the rules governing their interaction (TT).   A simulative capacity – a conceptually informed, yet unprincipled, direct manipulation of PAs processed by various mechanisms (ST)   Some hybrid combination of these processes.

10 The Spectator’s Dilemma   Either we have all the relevant framing information – and predictive accuracy is ensured – but it is hard to establish need (Heal-type cases). Suppose I wish to predict what John will think of the new jacket; will he think it garish? Suppose further that I know that John believes the jacket to be scarlet and he thinks all bright colours to be garish. I will, of course, expect him to think the jacket garish (Heal 1995, p. 39).   Or we lack at least some framing information and do not know which ‘relevant adjustments’ to make. Here the need is evident but the results are typically flawed: inaccurate predictions or merely possible explanations. And… to truly explain why X took an action requires designating the reason for which they performed it (i.e. its rational cause) and not merely a possible reason why someone might have taken the action (Davidson 1967).

11 Interim Moral “ST says that simulation accounts for the explanations we actually give of the behavior of others. ST doesn't say that simulation will always give the right explanation. Rather, it says that the limitations of simulation account for (some of) the limitations our capacity to explain and predict behavior. In this case, it may have accounted for your inability to solve the problem yourself. Further putting yourself in your wife's place ( e.g., recalling that there were two garages) might have produced the right solution. Of course, it probably wouldn't have told you reliably and definitively that this was THE reason why she didn't make the turn. We're only human!” (Gordon, personal communication, Wed, 9 Aug 2006, cf. Goldman 2006, 150). Fair enough. But this alone should raise doubts about the orthodox assumption that the primary function of FP (sensu stricto) is to provide us with reliable enough third-person predictions and explanations! Low-level mechanisms (+) will suffice for basic social coordination.

12 An Alternative Story about the Primary Function of FP-SS Explanations   Folk psychological explanations function, primarily, as normalizing explanations. These come in the form of (usually, appropriately truncated) narratives.   Normalizing explanations make actions intelligible by providing contextualizing narratives – sometimes these focus on the person’s character or the considerations that moved them to act (i.e. the content of their attitudes etc.) or their ends (e.g. why engage in this project?).  ).  Crucially, like historical explanations, these explanations take the form of narratives that are personal and particular. They aim at explicating action by revealing ‘the light in which the person came to do what he/she did’ (Dancy 2000, p. 97, with modifications).

13 Normalizing Explanations   Exactly what should occupy the focus of our attention will depend on the needs of the questioner. There is no algorithm for this – knowing what one should cite on any given occasion is itself a special kind of narrative competence.   In all, folk psychology – the asking for and giving of reasons – is, in essence, a skilled practice in which we ‘make sense’ of intentional actions by constructing and digesting abbreviated narratives (Hutto 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008). What enables us to do this?

14 The Narrative Practice Hypothesis Interactive, carer-supported engagements with stories about people who act for reasons (‘folk psychological’ or ‘person’ narratives) provide the normal route through which children become familiar with: a) a)The core structure of reason-giving explanations (e.g. learning the appropriate combinations in Rylean fashion); b) b)The norm-governed possibilities for the practical application of this explanatory framework (i.e. learning how and when to apply FP).

15 FP Forms and Norms Made Manifest Through Exemplary Stories Little Red Riding Hood learns from the woodcutter that her grandmother is sick. She wants to make her grandmother feel better (she is a nice, caring child), and she thinks that a basket of treats will help, so she brings such a basket through the woods to her grandmother’s house (beliefs and desires lead to actions). When she arrives there, she sees the wolf in her grandmother’s bed, but she falsely believes that the wolf is her grandmother (appearances can be deceiving). When she realises it is s a wolf, she is frightened and runs away, because she knows wolves can hurt people. The wolf, who indeed wants to eat her, leaps out of the bed and runs after her trying to catch her (Lillard 1997, p. 268, emphases mine).

16 Core Claim of the NPH   Being exposed to and engaging with narratives of the right kind with the right caregiver support plays a critical developmental role in the acquisition of bona fide ‘folk psychological’ skills (Hutto 2006, 2007).   The NPH can afford to be neutral on questions about the ‘correct’ analysis of the structure of reasons – (e.g. Humeanism, Pure Cognitivism, Anti-Psychologism).

17 FP is Socioculturally Based   The NPH can be seen as special case of the thesis that material culture and its enduring artefacts are responsible for ‘extending’ our cognitive and social affordances.   As the relevant narrative practices are socio- culturally based. FP is not an Ancient Cognitive Endowment – it is not a biological inheritance

18 Six Challenges to the NPH   Poverty of the Stimulus Argument;   Universal Convergence Argument;   Ancestral Need Argument;   The TT Absorption Manoeuvre;   Lack of FP Narratives Argument;   The Charge of Circularity.

19 A Poverty of the Stimulus Argument “As Sellars tells the story, Jones actually set out a theory and taught it to his compatriots. But nothing like that seems to go on in our current practice. We don’t explicitly teach our children a theory that enables them to apply mental terms to other people. Indeed, unlike Jones and his friends, we are not even able to state the theory, let alone teach it” (Stich & Ravenscroft 1996, p. 120-121) But folk psychology is not a name for a codified set of rules and regulations; it is a skilled narrative practice – its so-called ‘principles’ are embedded in the stories and learned through countless examples.

20 Objections from the Old Guard I can't imagine that it takes much practice (in story telling or otherwise) to acquire a capacity for intentional explanation. As far as I was able to tell (from a very unsystematic look at the literature), the practice is absolutely universal. That makes it sound pretty much independent of local child- rearing practices and the like. – Jerry Fodor, personal correspondence, 11 Aug 2006

21 Table 10.1 Percentage of Correct Responses for Western, Mofu and Tolai 6-year olds and Tainae 4- to 8-year olds WesternMofuTolaiTainae (n = 13)(n - 34)(n = 16)(n = 12) Look84.664.743.891.7 Think92.355.950.0 Prior84.670.643.866.7 Subsequent10085.393.858.3

22 Ancestral Need meets Prehistoric Evidence A late-in-the day co-evolution-with-language account is the most plausible story about the development of ToM mechanisms – but the dates are all wrong. “It is only around 50,000 years ago that fully modern theory of mind abilities evolve” (Mithen 2000b, p. 496). “A theory of mind had in all likelihood evolved by 40,000 years ago, but… before this time there is as yet no clear evidence for it” (Baron-Cohen 1999, p. 273). “A more powerful argument is that ‘theory of mind’ must have been present in H. sapiens 100-150,000 years ago or at least before the dispersion from Africa. Otherwise, one would have to assume parallel evolution of theory of mind” (Baron-Cohen 1999, p. 274, emphasis added).

23 Meet the Ancestors Last call for anatomical change – e.g. species universal mechanisms

24 The Absorption Manoeuvre Nothing rules out ‘the idea that folk psychological knowledge is the acquisition of a theory… and that acquisition of this theory involves immersion in narrative practices in the relevant sense’ (anonymous AHRC reviewer) Prior question: In what sense can the default assumption that FP is theoretical justified?   Explaining action in terms of reasons (abbreviated FP narratives) involves saying I Φed ‘because…’. This does not automatically imply the existence of ‘inner representational states’ (cf. Davidson, Hutto 1998, 1999);   If folk psychological explanations are normalizing explanations then their primary function is not that of 3rd personal mindreading/mentalizing (nor is the latter a reliable enough way to get such explanations);   FP is not the product of active theorizing (by hominids or kids) nor do adult humans employ ‘theories’ (in any interesting sense) even when using FP in speculative situations.

25 Lewisian Holism and Structured Practices Theoretical-terms and Other-terms FP is not a ‘term-introducing theory… invented long before there was an institution of professional science” (Lewis 1972). CONCEPTUALLY DEFINED ROLE X has the candlestick, X is not in the library (Defined in a network) ONTOLOGICAL REALIZER Who or what fills the role?

26 Friendly Fire “growing narrative competence plays a central role in children’s social development. I do not want to dispute this … However, this is not to suggest that the relevant narratives embody the key concepts or generalizations of FP. Adult discourse involves neither unified concepts of belief and desire nor an appreciation of systematic relations between them. Hence given that FP is never acquired, there are no good grounds for imposing it upon the narratives that children construct and are exposed to” (Ratcliffe 2007, p. 214-115) Shakespeare won’t reduce: One can’t boil Othello to the one- liner - ‘Othello believed that Desdemona had been unfaithful and desired to kill her’ (Ratcliffe 2007, p. 216)

27 Return Volley Iago intends to use Othello's positive qualities against him. What Iago means by "serve my turn upon him" is that he is going to make Othello believe that Desdemona has been unfaithful to him. The word "serve" has connotations of a prison sentence or punishment showing that Iago believes Othello deserves this cruel punishment. It also shows that Iago doesn't like him so much that he wants to personally inflict such punishment upon him even though he will personally put himself at risk he is willing to take this chance as he really doesn't like Othello. This quote is also showing that as Othello believes Iago then he does not believe in himself. He does not think that he is good enough for Desdemona as he feels that she will leave him for someone else easily. Term Paper #48703, Othello's Mistake, 2004., $ 27.95

28 Isn’t the NPH circular? The ‘Narrative Competency’ Objection: Doesn’t the capacity to understand folk psychological narratives in the first instance presuppose ToM abilities? Engendering our first and basic competency with FP narratives only requires: 1. 1. A prior practical grasp of the concepts of desire and belief; 2. 2. A range of emotional and imaginative abilities/grasp of social roles, shared norms, etc.; 3. 3. Appropriate caregiver support and interaction. FP 101 does not entail the existence of a ‘theory of mind’ per se.

29 Getting a Grip on the Attitudes Our understanding of and ability to attribute specific kinds of propositional attitudes:   Comes slowly and in discrete stages;   Builds upon and expands pre-existing capacities for intersubjective engagements (e.g. an imaginative capacity for visual perspective shifting);   Emerges along with mastery of the syntax and semantics of complex linguistic constructions.

30 Getting a Grip on Sententially Expressed Attitudes A ‘representational’ understanding of desired objects, actions, situations begins: Circa age 2 An explicit ‘metarepresentational’ understanding of belief/false belief begins: Circa age 3/4 This understanding of divergent cognitive perspectives may be fostered by engaging in genuinely discursive conversations (Harris 1996)

31 Promises and Excuses we still don’t know, in detail, how these theory- formation mechanisms work, either in science or cognitive development (Gopnik 2003, p. 245) we don’t have a detailed account of the cognitive mechanisms that underlie this process. There must be some mechanism (or, more likely, a cluster of mechanisms)… (Nichols & Stich 2003, p. 35, first emphasis added). NPH: No Inner Mechanisms Need Apply


33 Belief/Desire Psychology Having an understanding of the two principal types of intentional attitudes – beliefs and desires – lies at heart of FP practice (even if these attitudes do not always and everywhere figure center stage in token FP explanations). In some appropriate combination these attitudes play distinctive and constitutive roles. Nothing is an intentional action that lacks a properly co-joined B and D: Beliefs define an agent’s take on the world (i.e. how things are thought to be) and thus guide action. Desires (or pro-attitudes) specify goals for action and are often construed as motivational states. This ‘standard B/D model’ has a venerable history: “Intellect itself moves nothing.... hence choice is either desiderative thought or intellectual desire” (EN, 1139a 35-36, 1139b 4-5, see also Hume).

34 Propositional Attitudes PAs are complex states of mind: propositional content of the sort expressed by sentential that-clauses. Psychological attitudes directed at situations/states of affairs. They possess propositional content of the sort expressed by sentential that-clauses. X desires that p X believes that p X hopes that p X fears that p X recognises that p Reasons are more complex still!!!

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