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Radical Interpretation*

A fundamental project in theorising about social cognition is to provide an account radical interpretation*. An account of radical interpretation* is an account of how you could in principle infer facts about actions and mental states from non-mental evidence.

radical interpretation*

Infer The Mind from The Evidence

The Mind: facts about actions, desires, beliefs, emotions, perspectives ...

The Evidence: facts about events and states of affairs that could be known without knowing what any particular individual believes, desires, intends, ...

Here we must be careful. Donald Davidson and David Lewis have both used the term ‘radical interpretation’. But Lewis is interested in how what I am calling ‘The Evidence’ determines facts about the mind. This is a *metaphysical* question. By contrast, Davidson is interested in the possibility of inferring The Mind from The Evidence. He is not assuming---and, I think, does not belive, that the Evidence metaphysically determines The Mind (although he’s sometimes interpreted as so believing). Davidson’s project (and the part of Dennett’s we’re interested in) is epistemological, not metaphysical.
[NB: this is particularly important because we’re talking about Dennett]
I’ll add a star to the name to show that the project I have in mind isn’t necessarily the same project as others have used the term ‘radical interpretation’ for.