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Interacting Mindreaders

Stephen A. Butterfill
Department of Philosophy, University of Warwick, UK

In Philosophical Studies (accepted June 2012, doi:10.1007/s11098-012-9980-x)


Could interacting mindreaders be in a position to know things which they would be unable to know if they were manifestly passive observers? This paper argues that they could. Mindreading is sometimes reciprocal: the mindreader's target reciprocates by taking the mindreader as a target for mindreading. The paper explains how such reciprocity can significantly narrow the range of possible interpretations of behaviour where mindreaders are, or appear to be, in a position to interact. A consequence is that revisions and extensions are needed to standard theories of the evidential basis of mindreading. The view also has consequences for understanding how abilities to interact combined with comparatively simple forms of mindreading may explain the emergence, in evolution or development, of sophisticated forms of social cognition.

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