These two articles criticized the Theory-Theory and introduced ST as a better account of mindreading. Alvin Goldman was an early and influential defender of ST and has done much to give the theory its prominence. Since the late s, ST has been one of the central players in the philosophical, psychological, and neuroscientific discussions of mindreading. It has however been argued that the fortunes of ST have had a notable negative consequence: Stephen Stich and Shaun Nichols already urged dropping it in favor of a finer-grained terminology.
There is some merit to this. ST is in fact better conceived of as a family of theories rather than a single theory. All the members of the family agree on the thesis that mental simulation, rather than a body of knowledge about other minds, plays a central role in mindreading.
However, different members of the family can differ from one another in significant respects. One fundamental area of disagreement among Simulation Theorists is the very nature of ST—what kind of theory ST is supposed to be—and what philosophers can contribute to it. According to them, ST is thus a theory in cognitive science, to which philosophers can contribute exactly as theoretical physicists contribute to physics: For example, Heal writes that: But this perception is confused. It is an a priori truth … that simulation must be given a substantial role in our personal-level account of psychological understanding.
We leave to the reader the task of evaluating which aspects should be put at the centre of the inquiry. Importantly, even those who agree on the general nature of ST might disagree on other crucial issues.
We will focus on what are typically taken to be the three most important bones of contention among Simulation Theorists: What types of simulation processes are there? What is the role of mental simulation in mindreading? After having considered what keeps Simulation Theorists apart, we shall move to discuss what holds them together, i.
Currie and Ravenscroft make this point quite nicely: Imagination enables us to project ourselves into another situation and to see, or think about, the world from another perspective. This is the intuitive and general sense of mental simulation that Simulation Theorists have in mind.
What exactly does it mean to say that a mental state is a mental simulation of another mental state? Clearly, we need a precise answer to this question, if the notion of mental simulation is to be the fundamental building block of a theory.
Simulation Theorists, however, differ over how to answer this question. We consider these two proposals in turn. For the moment, it will suffice to mention some relevant dimensions of resemblance: To avoid ambiguities, we shall adopt the following terminological conventions: Suppose that Lisa is seeing a yellow banana. At the present moment, there is no yellow banana in my own surroundings; thus, I cannot have that type of visual experience. Still, I can visualize what Lisa is seeing.
RES-1 , however, faces an obvious problem Goldman The resemblance relation is symmetric: But this is clearly wrong. At the same time, since visual experiences do not have the function of resembling visual images, RES-2 does not run into the trouble of categorizing the former as a mental simulation of the latter.
In this case, RES-2 is satisfied. But now suppose further that visualization works like a computer simulation: It is a commonplace that explanation in cognitive science is structured into different levels. Given our aims, we can illustrate this idea through the classical tri-level hypothesis formulated by David Marr Suppose that one wants to explain a certain cognitive capacity, say, vision or mindreading, or moral judgment.
The first level of explanation, the most abstract one, consists in describing what the cognitive capacity does—what task it performs, what problem it solves, what function it computes. The second level of analysis specifies how the task is accomplished: Importantly, this level of analysis abstracts from the particular physical structures that implement the algorithm in our head. It is only at the third level of analysis that the details of the physical implementation of the algorithm in our brain are spelled out.
With these distinctions at hand, we can answer questions a and b. A cognitive process is a cognitive capacity considered as an information-processing activity and taken in abstraction from its physical implementation. This means that the same type of cognitive process can be multiply realized in different physical structures. For example, parsing roughly, the cognitive process that assigns a grammatical structure to a string of signs can be implemented both by a human brain and a computer.
On the contrary, cognitive mechanisms are particular types of physical structures—e. More precisely, cognitive mechanisms are organized structures carrying out cognitive processes in virtue of how their constituent parts interact Bechtel ; Craver ; Machamer et al. We now turn to question c , which concerns the distinction between use and reuse of a cognitive mechanism. At a first approximation, a cognitive mechanism is used when it performs its primary function, while it is reused when it is activated to perform a different, non-primary function.
All this is a bit sketchy, but it will do. The main idea behind it is that whether a mental state is a mental simulation of another mental state depends on the cognitive processes generating these two mental states, and on the cognitive mechanisms implementing such cognitive processes.
Now that we know what REU means, we can consider whether it fares better than RES-2 in capturing the nature of the relation of mental simulation. It would seem so. Consider this hypothetical scenario. Lisa is seeing a yellow banana, and her visual experience has been generated by cognitive process V1, which has been implemented by the use of her visual mechanism.
I am visualizing a yellow banana, and my visual image has been generated by cognitive process V2, which has been implemented by the reuse of my visual mechanism. Rosanna-the-Super-Reasoner is also visualizing a yellow banana, but her visual image has been generated by an information-rich cognitive process: Goldman a is still not convinced. Suppose that while Lisa is seeing a yellow banana, I am using my visual mechanism to visualize the Golden Gate Bridge.
Thus—Goldman concludes—resemblance should be taken as the central feature of mental simulation. Here is one plausible definition: The first is that it solves all the aforementioned problems for RES and REU —we leave to the reader the exercise of showing that this is indeed the case.
The second is that it fits nicely with an idea that loomed large in the simulationist literature: Consider the following case. My situation is different. Still, I can imagine believing and desiring so.
When I feed these imagined states into my decision-making mechanism, I am not employing it for its primary function. Rather, I am taking it off-line I am reusing it. I have not really decided so. As a first stab, a mental simulation process is a cognitive process generating simulated mental states.
Our two mental states resembled one another, but different cognitive processes generated them: According to PROC, the latter cognitive process, but not the former, was thus a simulation process. Figure 1 The hexagon at the bottom depicts a cognitive mechanism C it could be, say, the visual mechanism. Heal pointed out a problem with committing ST to a particular account of the cognitive mechanisms that underlie it. Suppose that the human mind contains two distinct decision-making mechanisms: Mec1, which takes beliefs and desires as input, and generates decisions as output; and Mec2, which works by following exactly the same logical principles as Mec1, but takes imagined beliefs and imagined desires as input and generates imagined decisions as output.
Here is the question: At a minimum, she might say that this scenario does not elicit any robust intuition in one direction or the other: In particular, if she conceives of ST as an empirical theory in cognitive science, she will be happy to discount the evidential value of intuitions if countervailing theoretical considerations are available.
Yesterday, Angelina had the visual experience of a red apple. On the night of June 15, , Napoleon conjured up the visual image of a red apple. Angelina used her visual mechanism to see, while Napoleon reused his to imagine.
This might strike one as utterly bizarre. As a matter of fact, the visual image Napoleon had on the night of June 15, is entirely disconnected from the visual experience that Angelina had yesterday. Thus, how could the former be a mental simulation of the latter? If you think about it, the problem is even worse than this.
First, she can develop an argument that this is not absurd at all. Intuitively, the following principle seems to be true: If TYPE is correct, then the following principle has to be true as well: Any token mental state of the type visual image of a red apple is a mental simulation of every token mental state of the type visual experience of a red apple.
The second component of the answer echoes one of the answers given to Heal: In fact, the main aim of this definition is not that of capturing folk intuitions, but rather that of offering a clear enough picture of the relation of mental simulation on the basis of which an adequate theory of mindreading can be built. So, if the proposed definition fails, say, to help distinguishing ST from TT, or is of limited use in theory-building, or is contradicted by certain important results from cognitive science, then one has a good reason to abandon it.
These notions do poorly match the folk concepts of language and space, but linguists and physicists do not take this to be a problem. The same applies to the notion of mental simulation.