Folk psychology (on a standard reading) is the way we attribute contentful mental states to others in order to explain and predict their behavior – for example, saying that John thinks the plant needs water as an inner mental state that explains why he is looking for the watering can.
In Mind As Metaphor: A Defence of Mental Fictionalism (Oxford UP, 2023), Adam Toon argues that this view is incorrect: we do not have mental representations. Instead, while our concept of mind is of an inner world, this inner world is a fiction. What we are really doing is picking out complex patterns of behavior and projecting this inward; intentionality resides in public language, not in the mind. Toon, an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Exeter, also distinguishes his view from Ryle’s and Dennett’s positions, and argues that while the ascriptions should not be taken literally, their purpose is serious and our practice of ascribing them is indispensable.
Carrie Figdor is professor of philosophy at the University of Iowa.