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Volume 14, 2000

Folk Psychology, Mental Concepts and the Ascription of Attitudes

Christopher S. Hill
Pages 56-66

From Assertion to Belief
The Role of Linguistic Data in the Practice of Belief-Ascription

This paper is concerned with the question of how we arrive at knowledge of the propositional attitudes of other agents. I describe a number of methods, but focus on the method that involves arriving at conclusions about the beliefs of others from information about their assertions and acts of assent. I attempt to give a reasonably full characterization of this method. Among other things, I maintain that when it is properly understood, the method is seen to be altogether independent of simulation. Thus, one conclusion of the paper is that simulation is not in any sense a universal method. At best, it is a method that we use in a highly restricted range of situations. Another conclusion is that there are features of the method of inference from assertion and assent that tend to provide support for the theory-theory – that is, for the view that our ascriptive practice involves the implicit use of a body of principles that resembles a scientific theory.

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