Empathy and Analogy: Mindreading and Simulation

The argument of this post is that mindreading, theory of mind (“mentalizing”), and simulation theory are fundamentally flawed. What is lacking is empathy. It is not that these do not mention “empathy.” It occurs as both the target of explanation as well as an explanatory mechanism. The argument is rather that empathy is missing in the sense that the world of emotions, expressions of life, including the emotions, and the humanness opened up by empathy are not satisfactorily simulated by mindreading. But including empathy will not save mindreading which is a flawed and misleading approach from the start. This is a bold statement for which additional argument and evidence is provided.

At its best, mindreading is a research program derivative on experiments in false belief (and a set of closely related experiments), mirror neurons, and the extension of the metaphor of simulation to the neurology of the human biocomputer. Paradoxically, this puts the approach of mindreading on the slippery slope to skepticism about the existence of other minds. Just when it seems safe to rehabilitate introspection as a form of data gathering relevant to simulation, the classic conundrum of the multiple meanings of mental concepts between the first- and third-person perspectives erupts. Several solutions are proposed by the proponents of mindreading, none entirely satisfactory. As a result of the skeptical threat, mindreading is unable to take advantage of the power of analogical thinking, since it must avoid reference to the argument from analogy, which is notorious for not being a solution to doubts about other minds. But it is precisely with analogical thinking and computational model building that the power of simulation lies. The detailed argument is available: CHEmpathyandAnalogy20081124

Categories: Empathy, Introspection, mindreading, Neurology, Philosophy, simulation

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