Theories of Mind

Term: Spring 2010

Subject Code: GANT

Course Number: 6110

 The notions of subjectivity and subject formation are hotly debated topics in anthropology. The quintessential quality of a subject is her capacity for thought – and its susceptibility to manipulation. Individual minds inhabit complex cultural environments; yet thought is the activity solely of individual minds. Anthropologists have convincingly shown that all cultural traditions acknowledge that peoples’ thoughts undergird their actions, although this link is often described by very different public narratives. Cognitive psychologists, in their turn, have found that the development of the rich ability to interpret and predict behavior in terms of unseen mental states is surprisingly robust across cultural and individual variation. Are these two traditions of research addressing different questions using similar language or are they addressing different aspects of the same phenomena? This seminar explores how it is that peoples, whether they be members of folk or academic communities, conceptualize the processes of thinking and the mechanisms that govern them. Out goal will be to understand this multitude of theories of mind and, in particular, the relationship – the contrasts and points of agreement -- between cultural and psychological versions.

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