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.
Chapter 9: Self and Not-Self
Self and Not-Self
How do people distinguish between one's-self and not-one's-self?
The central conviction on which this chapter is founded is that everyone—or at least everyone beyond the earliest years of childhood—has a concept of self, a sense of “who I am” in contrast to “who they are.” The they can be parts of one's own body, other people, other animate beings (apes, dogs, cats, birds, salamanders), and the world's inanimate objects (necklaces, firearms, houses, clothing, a plot of land). In effect, as people grow up, they discriminate between self and not-self. For the purposes of this book, such a self/not-self distinction is important because folk psychologies do not all agree about what one's self includes and what constitutes not-self.
Among theorists operating within European ...