Simulation theory (ST) is a theory of social cognition and mental concepts. It holds that understanding others’ actions and/or emotions involves undergoing (simulating) the same procedures that we would undergo if we ourselves were deciding upon, planning, or executing an action in the same circumstances or experiencing the same emotion. ST also holds that simulation obviates the need to use knowledge of the functional relations among mental states in order to understand and/or predict others’ behavior. The two main proponents of ST (Alvin Goldman and Robert Gordon) differ on one crucial issue: whether mental concepts are necessary for a simulation. I will argue that Goldman is right that ST must include an account of mental concepts, that he is right that some form of introspection must play a central role in that account, and that the concept of introspection should be based upon current empirical research in psychology and neuroscience. The aim will then be threefold: (i) to analyze the explanatory demands upon the concept of introspection within simulation theory (what phenomena do simulation theorists need to explain with the concept of introspection?); (ii) to review the relevant empirical work with a mind to refining the concept of introspection to meet those theoretical needs, and (iii) to integrate the results into a simulationist account of mental concepts.
John Michael is currently a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the GNOSIS Research Centre for Mind and Thinking and the Center for Functionally Integrative Neuroscience, Aarhus University, Copenhagen. He studied philosophy at Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT (BA, 2000) and Tuebingen (MA, 2006, with a masters thesis on developmental systems theory). From 2006 to 2009 he worked on his doctoral dissertation, “What is Folk Psychology and Who Cares? The Debate Between Simulation Theory and Theory Theory from the Perspective of Philosophy of Mind,” which he completed in 2009 in the doctoral program for philosophy and history of science (Initiativkolleg: Naturwissenschaften im historischen Kontext) at the University of Vienna.