• Summary
  • Contents
  • Subject index

Without taking a single psychology course, ordinary people learn to understand, predict, and explain one another’s actions, thoughts, and motivations. Many cognitive scientists and philosophers claim that our everyday or folk understanding of mental states constitutes a theory of mind. That theory is widely called folk psychology (sometimes commonsense psychology). The terms in which folk psychology are couched are familiar ones of ‘belief’ and ‘desire,’ ‘hunger,’ ‘pain,’ and so forth. According to many theorists, folk psychology plays a central role in our capacity to predict and explain the behavior of ourselves and of others. This book has two goals: (a) to provide a framework for analyzing folk psychologies, and (b) to describe multiple forms that folk psychologies assume in different cultures.


What objects and what relationships among objects truly exist in the universe rather than being just imaginary?

A traditional concern of philosophers is ontology—the study of being or of the nature of all reality. The basic question that ontology addresses is: What constitutes existence? In other words, what is it that exists and in what forms? Because different folk psychologies answer this question in different ways, one important distinction among versions of ethno-psychology is in the reality status that each psychology assigns to objects and events.

An essential foundation for people's notions of reality is the sort of evidence on which they base their beliefs. This is the epistemological issue of how people arrive at their conceptions of reality. Chapter 3 focuses on epistemology by offering ...

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