CFP: Self-Knowledge and Folk Psychology

CFP: Self-Knowledge and Folk Psychology: Perspectives from philosophy and psychiatry

Conference Venue:

Radboud University Nijmegen
Nijmegen, Netherlands


In his classic 1956 article, Wilfrid Sellars provided an alternative to the introspectionist account of how we know our own mental states by claiming that psychological concepts are like theoretical concepts postulated in order to explain and predict behaviour. On Sellars’ view, folk psychology and self-knowledge are deeply entwined. Many philosophers since have followed Sellars’ central idea, either in terms of what has become known as the “theory theory” of mental state attribution, according to which knowledge of our own and others’ mental states is arrived at by a process of ‘mindreading’, or in terms of a “simulation theory”, which involves putting ourselves in the others’ shoes to find out which mental states should be attributed to the other.

Quite independently of each other, philosophers in the respective debates of folk psychology and self-knowledge have questioned this epistemic model of mental state ascription. In the debate on folk psychology, the theory-theory has been criticized for not taking into account the social, cultural and normative context in which mental state ascriptions are made. In the debate on self-knowledge, a move has been made towards ‘expressivist’ and ‘constitutive’ accounts of self-knowledge, which stress that the first person is not a mere spectator of her own mind.

This conference starts from the hypothesis that the respective debates on self-knowledge and folk psychology would benefit from a more integrative approach. In this light, the conference aims to explore the extent to which the debate on folk psychology is relevant for self-knowledge (and perhaps vice versa), but also to take into consideration insights from psychopathology, developmental psychology and other areas that might be relevant for getting a more complete picture of just what our ability for knowing our own minds — and failing to know it — consists in.

 Call for papers

We welcome submissions for the conference, a selection of which will be invited to contribute to the combined special issue, on the following three topics:

1. The strengths of self-knowledge

  • Which aspects of self-knowledge are irreducibly first-personal, and cannot be replaced by an allocentric, i.e. second- and third-person ways of relating to oneself? In other words, what makes self-knowledge special compared to our ways of understanding other minds?
  • Should we think of techniques of self-regulation rather as failures or successes of knowing one’s own mind?

2. The frailties of self-knowledge

  • How successful are we, in actual fact, in gaining knowledge of our own minds? Which aspects of ourselves do we have a hard time achieving knowledge of, and why?
  • Can our folk psychological capacities, which we generally use to understand others, be effective to develop a better understanding of ourselves? And if so, how might we translate these psychological capacities to the first person?
  • Can we build on recent insights in the debate on folk psychology, that stress the relational and second-personal nature of our knowledge of other minds, to develop a non-epistemic account of first-person authority?

3. The practice of self-knowledge

  • The idea of improving self-knowledge by adopting a second- or third-person perspective on oneself is most clearly illustrated by psychiatric and psychotherapeutic practice. But how exactly should we conceive of the relation between the first-person perspective of avowals and the allocentric self-perspective in psychiatric and psychotherapeutic practice, and what would make for a healthy balance between the two?
  • In what way can an allocentric perspective on oneself be an effective way to overcome self-ignorance and self-deception and (other) psychological defenses?
  • (How) is a patient’s (embodied) self-experience altered by self-management strategies?

Submission details

  • We invite extended abstracts between 1000-1500 words max., which are suited for 20-minute presentation, 15-minute discussion.
  • Deadline: February 10, 2014.
  • Submitted abstracts will be evaluated by the department members of the Radboud University Nijmegen and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. All papers should be prepared for blind review and should be emailed as attached pdf-files to:  selfknowledgefp AT gmail DOT com. The authors will be notified by March 1st.
  • Selected papers will be invited to contribute to a special issue, to appear in Philosophical Explorations in 2015, on the topic of the conference.
  • Inquiries should be directed to fleurjongepier AT gmail DOT com.

Organizing committee:
Fleur Jongepier (Radboud University Nijmegen)
Derek Strijbos (Dimence, Zwolle; Radboud University Nijmegen)
Leon de Bruin (AKC/VU Amsterdam; Radboud University Nijmegen)

The organisers gratefully acknowledge the support of the faculty of philosophy (RU Nijmegen), the International Office (RU Nijmegen) and the programme Science Beyond Scientism (AKC/VU Amsterdam).

Special issue to appear in Philosophical Explorations (2015)