Thanks for this clarification.
Your mentioning that intentions as action and intentions as mental states
must be kept distinct invites further inquiry.
If mental states as a belief are culturally specific ways of understanding
action then *mental states* as a concept must exist as artefacts.
This notion of *mental states* therefore must have emerged in a particular
By tracing the historical emergence of the belief in *mental
states* showing how this notion has developed we possibly could become
clearer on how our own ethnotheory assumes the existence of mental
states as natural.
Do you know of any authors or books which have traced the history of the
development of *mental states* as a *folk* psychology?
Martin, my understanding of the point you are making is that expression
signs and gestures AS actions are central to development, but the move to
*mental states* can be questioned as a particular cultural
historical model of beliefs.
On Tue, Mar 19, 2013 at 7:19 PM, Andy Blunden <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
I need a little clarification too, Martin.
* What do you mean specifically by "when the infant acts
* The other thing that comes to mind is this. Manfred has been quite
specific in developing his approach to emotions within Activity
Theory, so we need to interrogate his paper in that context,
rather than in the context of internal states of the mind.
and can we remember to cc Manfred?
Martin Packer wrote:
Yes, of course. Rather than try to define them, at least at first, let
try to illustrate them:
Let's say you see me fumbling with the window handle. There are the
following ways of understanding my action:
1. I'm opening the window - intention in action
2. I'm planning to get some fresh air - prior intention
3. I believe that it is colder outside than in, and I desire that this
colder air enter the room - mental states of belief and desire
You can see that these are not mutually exclusive; indeed each seems to
be in some sense a deeper understanding than the previous one. This
seems to suggest that in ontogenesis a child is likely to move from 1
to 3. But it's not the case that all three are always necessary, because
there are actions that have an intention in action and no prior
and others that have a prior intention but no beliefs and desires.
An example of the first: I can get up and pace around the room without
forming any prior intention to do so. An example of the second: I can
to go to work by getting on the bus (prior intention and intention in
action), but since I do this every day it seems odd to attribute to me
addition a belief that the bus will take me to my workplace, or a
get there. First, I may have no such conscious belief or desire and yet
still get successfully to my office. Second, if one says that the mental
states are there but tacit, where does this stop? I must also believe
buses carry people, and they do not float, and they do not dissolve....
So it is important to distinguish these three ways of understanding an
action, and recognize when each is called for. A child who can only
and 2 may still be able to function successful in a range of situations.
In addition, these are not the only three ways that an action can be
understood. In addition:
4. I may have a commitment to a social role - perhaps I am a technician
whose job it is to ensure that the room does not overheat.
5. I may have a commitment to an identity - I may consider it more
healthy or more ethical to work in a cold office (apparently Facebook
founder Mark Zuckerberg holds such a view)
Now we're into levels that I don't think Tomasello or Gergely have
explored. Obviously infants are not going to understand actions in these
terms, but I think it's very interesting to explore at what age and
children become capable of such understanding.
On Mar 19, 2013, at 7:33 PM, Helen Harper <email@example.com>
can you please elaborate a little on what you understand as the
distinction between 'prior intentions and mental states of belief and
desire'. or if that's too much of an ask in a paragraph or two, point
towards something I should read?
On 20/03/2013, at 9:55 AM, Martin Packer <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
I agree with you that we have here converging lines of
And I like your use of the term gesture, because presumably while for
adult an infant's smile is understood as a 'sign' of pleasure, or of
recognition, or of appreciation, the infant has no intention to sign.
the infant (in-itself) the smile is a gesture, while for the adult,
a community of signers and symbolizers, (for-others) the smile is a
The problem I have with Gergely's work is that he seems to assume that
any kind of intelligible act has to be backed by an intentional
beliefs and desires. He doesn't see the distinction that John Searle
drawn between intention in action and prior intention. Tomasello sees
distinction, but in my view he then fails to make the distinction
prior intentions and mental states of belief and desire. And both of
fail to see that mental state discourse is not culturally universal;
are other conceptual frameworks within which people understand
That's a lot packed into one paragraph; I bring it up because at times
I think that Manfred Holodynski is also assuming that when the
intelligently in interaction with adults, this means he (the infant)
forming intentions that cause those actions, and that these
mental states. In my view this confuses the picture and prevents us
seeing the real developments.
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