Folk Psychological Narratives
Established wisdom in cognitive science holds that the everyday folk psychological abilities of humans—our capacity to understand intentional actions performed for reasons—are inherited from our evolutionary forebears. In Folk Psychological Narratives, Daniel Hutto challenges this view (held in somewhat different forms by the two dominant approaches, "theory theory" and simulation theory) and argues for the sociocultural basis of this familiar ability. He makes a detailed case for the idea that the way we make sense of intentional actions essentially involves the construction of narratives about particular persons. Moreover he argues that children acquire this practical skill only by being exposed to and engaging in a distinctive kind of narrative practice.
Hutto calls this developmental proposal the narrative practice hypothesis (NPH). Its core claim is that direct encounters with stories about persons who act for reasons (that is, folk psychological narratives) supply children with both the basic structure of folk psychology and the norm-governed possibilities for wielding it in practice. In making a strong case for the as yet underexamined idea that our understanding of reasons may be socioculturally grounded, Hutto not only advances and explicates the claims of the NPH, but he also challenges certain widely held assumptions. For example, he targets the idea that the primary function of folk psychology is to enable us to predict the behaviors of others. In this way, Folk Psychological Narratives both clears conceptual space around the dominant approaches for an alternative and offers a groundbreaking proposal.
About the Author
Daniel D. Hutto is Professor of Philosophical Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire.
“Daniel Hutto completely changes the terms of this debate ... [He is] to be commended for his radical and challenging thesis.”—Times Literary Supplement
“succeeds at striking a balance between the constructive and the critical... [Hutto's] challenge to the theory of mind tradition is formidable....[and] offers the field a promising basis from which to reorient itself.”—Science
“This is an important book ... an instant classic in this important and relatively young field of study” —Metapsychology
"Daniel Hutto completely changes the terms of this debate ... [He is] to be commended for his radical and challenging thesis." Times Literary Supplement
"highly original and admirably wide ranging ... Hutto tackles head on the really hard questions about the role in mental life of symbolization, representation and rationality" Language and Cognition
"Hutto succeeds in telling a compelling developmental and evolutionary story that integrates the available empirical evidence from vastly different areas of research such as developmental psychology, comparative cognition, neuroscience, cognitive archaeology, and evolutionary psychology into a coherent and sound narrative about the origins and application of folk psychology ... he adds substantially to the efforts to bring meaning back into the study of mind" Human Development
"succeeds at striking a balance between the constructive and the critical... [Hutto's] challenge to the theory of mind tradition is formidable....[and] offers the field a promising basis from which to reorient itself." Science
"This book is enjoyable to read. They style is, well, narrative, witty, and anything else but boring….It makes some important contributions to the debate and provides a variety of new insights. Most of all, it forces the opposition (on various fronts) back to the drawing board." Grazer Philosophische Studien, International Journal for Analytic Philosophy
"This is an important book ... an instant classic in this important and relatively young field of study" Metapsychology
"This book is a significant contribution to philosophy and psychology. Daniel Hutto has made an original and compelling contribution to debates about the human capacity to understand others."
Ian Ravenscroft, Department of Philosophy, Flinders University
"This is a fresh, timely, and thought-provoking book. Daniel Hutto hassucceeded admirably in laying out a comprehensive alternative to 'theory ofmind' approaches to psychological understanding."
Peter Hobson, Tavistock Professor of Developmental Psychopathology,University of London