Sunday, June 26, 2011


In a month, IHSR Conference will be held in Oxford, UK.

If you are going to participate in the conference, please visit our session. It is scheduled on July 28th in the morning. Our talk will focus on the theory of mind, and think over the intersubjectivity from embodied aspect (see the abstract below). We look forward to meeting you all.

[Phenomenological view on the theory of mind]
Shogo Tanaka (Tokai University), Masahiro Tamachi (Aino University)

How do we understand other people? In cognitive science, there is a complex discussion concerning this simple question, which is known as the theory of mind debate (see Davies and Stone, 1995). The theory of mind, in general, is defined as the ability to imagine and make inferences about other people’s minds and behaviors. Within this field, there is a debate between the ‘theory theory’ and the ‘simulation theory.’ The former claims that we use common sense kind of theories to understand other people. In this view, we understand the mental states of other people and predict their behavior through theoretical inferences. On the contrary, the latter theory suggests that we understand other people by simulating their mental states. In other words, we put ourselves in other people’s situations and virtually perceive, imagine, and think from their perspective. Beyond such differences, however, both theories share the common view that the minds of others are hidden behind their behaviors (Gallagher and Zahavi, 2008). In this presentation, we will propose the phenomenological alternative. From the phenomenological perspective, especially from that of Merleau-Ponty, the mentalistc supposition shared by both sides is “the prejudice to be renounced”, because it divides others into minds and bodies, whereas our direct experiences make it clear that we perceive them as a whole (Merleau-Ponty, 1951). We practice various embodied interactions with them, before making theoretical inferences or simulations. It is suggested that our ability to understand others is based on this type of embodied interactions, which Merleau-Ponty called ‘Intercorporeality’.