Reading Group

Hi Brainers. I’m writing to again promote an online reading group. The last one, which was on Daniel Hutto’s “Folk Psychological Narratives,” was a fantastic success, and we’d like to continue doing such groups. The new subject is Tad Zawidzki’s manuscript, “Mindshaping: Linchpin of the Human Socio-Cognitive Syndrome,” which is forthcoming with MIT Press.  If you’re interested in joining our reading group, here is a link to the google groups page.

Here is an abstract for Tad’s manuscript:

Consensus has it that human social cognition is distinct from that of other primates in at least the following four ways: we are capable of (1) sophisticated mindreading, (2) sophisticated mindshaping, (3) complex, large-scale and pervasive cooperation, and (4) structurally complex and semantically flexible communication.  Consensus also has it that the linchpin of this socio-cognitive syndrome is sophisticated mindreading: without it, none of our other socio-cognitive feats would be possible.  The central contentions of my book are (1) this latter consensus assumption is false, and (2) rather than sophisticated mindreading, sophisticated mindshaping is the linchpin of the human socio-cognitive syndrome.  Sophisticated mindshaping consists in an array of practices, like flexible, fine-grained imitation, pedagogy, norm institution and enforcement, and narrative self-constitution, of which all and only human populations appear capable.  Sophisticated mindreading consists in the capacity to reliably attribute full-blown propositional attitudes.  Following Bermudez (2003; 2009), I understand full-blown propositional attitudes as mental states with tenuous, holistically constrained causal influence on behavior.  For example, any belief is compatible with any observable behavior, given appropriate adjustments in other mental states: this is what it means for propositional attitudes to have only tenuous, holistically constrained causal influence on behavior.  My central argument is that attribution of such mental states cannot be the linchpin of the human socio-cognitive syndrome because there is no way such mindreading can be reliable enough in dynamic, quotidian contexts without prior practices of sophisticated mindshaping.   Such practices insure that interactants are sufficiently familiar with each other for mindreading and other forms of interpretation to be computationally tractable and reliable.  The crucible within which this socio-cognitive strategy was forged, I argue, was the peculiar socio-ecology of our prehistoric ancestors, in which cooperation was the central challenge.  Sophisticated mindreading could not help meet this challenge without prior, sophisticated mindshaping, and structurally complex and semantically flexible communication.  Given this phylogenetic sequence, the attribution of full-blown propositional attitudes can be understood as the tracking and undertaking of discursive commitments, expressed paradigmatically in linguistic performances.


  1. Casting socio-cultural mores in the metaphors of “mind” may be an exercise in literary imagination, but to assert a causal link between these metaphors and analogies is…what would we call it, creeping physicalism, a reification perhaps?

    Might I suggest that bringing the objects of these studies – mind, beliefs, socio-cultural attitudes and behaviours, etc. under one umbrella isn’t really a logico-philosophical or causally descriptive enterprise, but a literary enterprise that attempts to bring harmony and grammatical consistency to a system of mixed metaphors.

    It looks as if I am saying that the sort of studies you are examining are not the philosophical, logical enterprises they are made to appear to be. That is, in fact, what I am saying.

  2. the brains can be compared with stones; they are as dead as a doornail. It seems to be so that the brains know ealier than we what we are going to decide but this is a misunderstanding.
    We take the decision then the subject being able to go quicker than light goes back in time and and activates a certain part of the body.
    There we can immediately move our hand.


    As you know the DNA – our genetic code – is hidden in the cells of every living creature.
    A lot of books are written about it. It however strikes me that the question – who is reading the code – has never been stated, whereas this would be a logical question!
    Also a book is read by somebody.
    It are not my eyes or my brains who are doing this job but it is me!!
    Therefore there must be a second inhabitant of the body (apart from our me or soul).
    The Russian philosopher Constantin Karmanov has given it a name ‘coordinating subject’.
    So this subject is reading our DNA and working with it.
    Thanks to this subject we can further move our hand because we ourselves do not know which part of the brain must be activated and many other activities.

    Therefore it is necessary that you get to know about the philosophy of the subjectism.
    According to this philosophy each living being has 2 inhabitants i.e.

    1. the I
    2. the coordinating subject.

    The I
    We mean the character

    The coordinating subject

    The subject is:

    1. invisible
    2. Immaterial
    3. infinitely big

    These qualities are also valid for the I.

    If we cooperate consciously with the subject both parties do have benefit.
    The subject (I mean the cooperating subject) is e.g. reading our DNA and makes us able to move our hand.
    We do not know where the location in the brains is to start this action.

    Cooperation between the I and the subject


    The subjectism is offering the following perspectives:

    The more intensive the I is listening to the subject the more profit there will be for both.
    We hear vague or less vague (sometimes very hard) a voice warning us for a special situation and other things.
    If we neglect this feeling (signal) this might have bad consequences.
    If we listen well and act accordingly we go well.

    In as far one can say this is imagination I do not know exactly but as soon as one has heard of the subject the idea starts to live an own life.
    One can think to have real contact with the subject.
    Probably one becomes more sensitive for its pulses.
    May be it is possible that in the future one can become one with the subject. This will have a favourable influence on the consciousness or in other words this will be extended resp. changed. Many actual restrictions will probably escape.
    For a restricted number of commanding possibilities one might call the subject his slave, but I would emphasize the word restricted.

    Up to now we have overlooked our companion the subject.

    The reason is that the subject is invisible. On the other hand we do ‘see’ ourselves whereas we are also invisible.

    Now you have made acquaintance with your subject.
    It can be that you now look at life in another way.
    We know that we have not any power without the subject; on the other hand it is not necessary for us to get a sense of inferiority because reverse it is also the case, although in a lesser way.

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