How to Think About Thinking
Heal (Jane)
Source: Davies & Stone - Mental Simulation - Evaluations and Applications, Chapter 2
Paper - Abstract

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Editors’ Abstract1

  1. In her paper, 'How to Think About Thinking' (chapter 2), Jane Heal argues for a mixed position. We can distinguish three different prediction tasks in which mental simulation might figure. There is the prediction of a person's beliefs (and other mental states), given information about her situation. There is the prediction of a person's beliefs, given information about other beliefs that she holds. And there is the prediction of a person's behaviour, given information about her beliefs, and other mental states such as desires. Heal sees the case of prediction of beliefs from information about other beliefs, as the prime case for the simulation theory. For it is especially plausible, here, that the prediction can be based upon thinking through the other person's thoughts. For example, to predict what someone will beheve about a scientific or historical question requires one to think about the question directly, rather than to deploy a theory of scientific or historical thinking. In contrast, the theory theory says that 'first-level ability to think, to move through a reasoned sequence of thoughts, is one thing and a second-level theoretical representation enabling one to predict such a sequence is quite another' (p. 39). This, by Heal's lights, is a notable lack of economy in the theory theory, since the second-level ability can be no less complex than the first-level one; the theory theory posits a duplication2 of mental systems.
  2. In the case of predicting another person's beliefs from information about her situation. Heal argues that an intrusion of theory - and psychological theory, at that - is required. She does not directly discuss the prediction of behaviour from beliefs and desires, but argues that in the converse case - attributing beliefs on the basis of behaviour - simulation can play a role, but not a dominant one. This kind of hybrid position illustrates very well that the debate is far more complex than a simple theory theory versus simulation theory opposition.



In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1: Taken from "Stone (Tony) & Davies (Martin) - Mental Simulation: Introduction".


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  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)



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