Publication Details

Hutto, D. (2013). Fictionalism about folk psychology. The Monist, 96 (4), 582-604.


This paper argues that fictionalism about folk psychology, FaF, is ill motivated in any domain. It is argued that there is no advantage in trying to vindicate folk psychology by treating the constructs of classical cognitivism--namely, subpersonal mental representations--as useful fictions in contrast to serious scientific posits or as serving as the basis for philosophical explanations. Both scientific and philosophical considerations point to the conclusion that subpersonal representations of the sort that classical cognitivism posits should be eliminated, not preserved, by our best science of mind. Yet there is no need to assume that folk psychological explanations are subpersonally based. It is possible and plausible that such explanations are based, just as they appear to be, in nonscientific interpretative, narrative practices. A recent attempt to motivate FaF based on this assumption is examined and rejected. Then a more compelling, Dennett-style rationale for adopting a FaFish line based on worries about the indeterminacy of folk psychological attributions is considered. Dennett endorses FaF, broadly construed, in arguing that while folk psychological phenomena exhibit objective patterns, they are nevertheless, at best, mildly real. The final section of the article offers three considerations that should encourage the reader to resist such FaFish conclusions.