MCSI Lecture: Shannon Spaulding: How We Understand Others

Mindreading is the ability to understand a person’s behavior in terms of the psychological states that caused that behavior. Spaulding argues that mindreading is central to our ability to understand and interact with others but that most contemporary views of mindreading vastly underrepresent the diversity and complexity of mindreading. She articulates a new theory of mindreading that takes into account cutting edge philosophical and empirical research on in-group/out-group dynamics, social biases, and how our goals and the situational context influence how we interpret others’ behavior. Spaulding’s resulting theory of mindreading provides a more accurate, comprehensive, and perhaps pessimistic view of our abilities to understand others, with important epistemological and ethical implications. Deciding who is trustworthy, knowledgeable, and competent are epistemically and ethically fraught judgments: her new theory of mindreading sheds light on how these judgments are made and the conditions under which they are unreliable.

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