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Hardcover | $7.75 Short | £6.95 | 224 pp. | 6 x 9 in | September 2010 | ISBN: 9780262026376
eBook | $22.95 Short | September 2010 | ISBN: 9780262289900
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Our Own Minds

Sociocultural Grounds for Self-Consciousness


In Our Own Minds, Radu Bogdan takes a developmental perspective on consciousness—its functional design in particular—and proposes that children's functional capacity for consciousness is assembled during development out of a variety of ontogenetic adaptations that respond mostly to sociocultural challenges specific to distinct stages of childhood. Young human minds develop self-consciousness—in the broad sense of being conscious of the self’s mental and behavioral relatedness to the world—because they face extraordinary and escalating sociocultural pressures that cannot be handled without setting in motion a complex executive machinery of self-regulation under the guidance of an increasingly sophisticated intuitive psychology. Bogdan suggests that self-consciousness develops gradually during childhood. Children move from being oriented toward the outside world in early childhood to becoming (at about age four) oriented also toward their own minds. Bogdan argues that the sociocultural tasks and practices that children must assimilate and engage in competently demand the development of an intuitive psychology (also known as theory of mind or mind reading); the intuitive psychology assembles a suite of executive abilities (intending, controlling, monitoring, and so on) that install self-consciousness and drive its development. Understanding minds, first the minds of others and then our own, drives the development of self-consciousness, world-bound or extrovert at the beginning and later mind-bound or introvert. This asymmetric development of the intuitive psychology drives a commensurate asymmetric development of self-consciousness.

About the Author

Radu J. Bogdan is Professor of Philosophy and Cognitive Science and Director of the Cognitive Studies Program at Tulane University and Regular Guest Professor and Director of the OPEN MIND master program in cognitive science, University of Bucharest, Romania. He is the author of Our Own Minds: Sociocultural Grounds for Self-Consciousness (MIT Press, 2010) and other books.

Table of Contents

  • Our Own Minds
  • Our Own Minds
  • Sociocultural Grounds for Self-Consciousness
  • Radu J. Bogdan
  • A Bradford Book
  • The MIT Press
  • Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • London, England
  • ©
  • 2010
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher.
  • For information about special quantity discounts, please email special_sales@
  • This book was set in Stone Sans and Stone Serif by Toppan Best-set Premedia Limited. Printed and bound in the United States of America.
  • Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
  • Bogdan, Radu J.
  • Our own minds : sociocultural grounds for self-consciousness / Radu J. Bogdan.
  •  p. cm.
  • “A Bradford book.”
  • Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • ISBN 978-0-262-02637-6 (hardcover : alk. paper)
  • 1. Self (Philosophy) 2. Self-consciousness (Awareness) I. Title.
  • BD450.B564 2010
  • 126—dc22
  • 2010005415
  • 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
  • Control of a [mental] function is the counterpart of one’s consciousness of it . . . Consciousness and control appear only at a late stage in the development of a function, after it has been used and practiced unconsciously and spontaneously.
  • Lev Vygotsky,
  • Thought and Language
  • , 90
  • Conscious updating is vital to social life. People interact too fast, they change their evaluations of one another too rapidly, and they perceive the incredible subtleties of social life too quickly for anything but a fully attuned conscious mind to track. . . . It is the immersion in culture, rather than any feature of the brain, that defines our truly human modes of consciousness.
  • Merlin Donald,
  • A Mind So Rare
  • , 86, 254
  • Contents
  • Preface ix
  • I Issues, Data, and Theories
  • 1 Setting the Stage 3
  • 1.1 The Project 3
  • 1.2 Central Concepts 6
  • 1.3 Central Questions 12
  • 1.4 Developmental Answers 15
  • 2 Developmental Asymmetries 19
  • 2.1 Before and After 4 20
  • 2.2 Memory 22
  • 2.3 Thinking 25
  • 2.4 Self-Control 29
  • 2.5 Naive Psychology 31
  • 2.6 Self-Consciousness 48
  • 3 Theories of Self-Understanding 53
  • 3.1 Naive Theorizing 54
  • 3.2 Modules 55
  • 3.3 Simulating Others 56
  • 3.4 The Inner Metamind 59
  • 3.5 Shared Minds 61
  • II Toward an Explanation
  • 4 Premises 67
  • 4.1 The Paths Not Taken 67
  • 4.2 Relational Consciousness 73
  • 4.3 Executive Grounds for Self-Consciousness 80
  • 4.4 Representing Minds as Means to Ends 90
  • 5 Becoming Self-Conscious 99
  • 5.1 Extrovert Self-Consciousness 100
  • 5.2 Sociocultural Activities 109
  • 5.3 Minding Other Minds 114
  • 5.4 Anticipating the Turn 120
  • 6 Turning to Our Own Minds 123
  • 6.1 Philosophical Tales for Children 124
  • 6.2 Two Intuitive Psychologies 129
  • 6.3 A Common Understanding of Minds 131
  • 6.4 A Multiplex Mind 138
  • 6.5 A Narrative Mind 141
  • 7 Minding Our Own Minds 145
  • 7.1 Introvert Novelties 145
  • 7.2 Dealing with Self 148
  • 7.3 Kinds of Thoughts 151
  • 7.4 With the Self in Mind 158
  • 8 Loose Ends 165
  • 8.1 Assembled By-product 165
  • 8.2 Dark Areas 168
  • 8.3 Fellow Travelers 175
  • Notes 187
  • References 195
  • Index 207


“Fascinating...a wonderful read...Bogdan is that rare writer who is truly at home both with developmental psychology as well as with philosophy of mind, and who has the capacity to bring together empirical and philosophical findings to throw new light on the central and difficult questions concerning the nature and development of the human mind.”—The Philosophical Quarterly
“...[A]n account that firmly grounds the existence and shaping of human self-consciousness in a sociocultural and developmental context and is a welcome addition to the growing literature about the nature of consciousness.... I would recommend this volume to psychologists, anthropologists, neuroscientists, and indeed anyone fascinated by studies of human self-consciousness, as it represents a valuable contribution to the thinking about a tantalizing object of study.”—David B. Edelman, American Journal of Human Biology
“Among a growing number of articles and books on the sociocultural approach, this is perhaps the clearest and most tightly argued to date.”—P. Jenkins, Marywood University, CHOICE
“On this ground I believe that his work should be widely read by all serious developmental psychologists, as well as other cognitive scientists. For those with interests in social cognitive development Bogdan's book is a must read. It is exceptionally clear in its argument, as well as in its text; it is also brief, always a virtue.”—Katherine Nelson, Cognitive Development


“Radu Bogdan's thought-provoking new book explores how sociocultural factors frame and drive the emergence of self-understanding in normal human development. This is a neglected area in philosophical discussions of consciousness and mindreading. Bogdan's bold claims should provoke lively discussion among philosophers and cognitive scientists.”
José Luis Bermúdez, Texas A&M University, and author of The Paradox of Self-Consciousness and Thinking without Words
“This is a rich, insightful, and ambitious book that brings developmental findings to bear on traditional philosophical issues concerning intentionality, consciousness, and self-consciousness. I am especially sympathetic to its thesis that the mind of the young child is oriented toward the outside social and physical world, and that understanding other minds precedes understanding our own.”
Robert M. Gordon, Research Professor in Philosophy of Mind and Cognitive Science, University of Missouri, St. Louis