The Developing Mind : A Philosophical Introduction book cover
1st Edition

The Developing Mind
A Philosophical Introduction

ISBN 9780415566230
Published April 17, 2020 by Routledge
276 Pages 41 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

The development of children’s minds raises fundamental questions, from how we are able to know about basic aspects of the world such as objects and actions, to how we come to grasp mental states. The Developing Mind is the first book to critically introduce and examine philosophical questions concerning children’s cognitive development and to consider the implications of scientific breakthroughs for the philosophy of developmental psychology.

The book explores central topics in developmental psychology from a philosophical perspective:

  • children's awareness of objects and the question of ‘object permanence’
  • the nature and explanatory role of ‘core knowledge’
  • evidence for innate drivers of language
  • children's knowledge of the relation between actions and goals
  • puzzles about when infants first have awareness of other minds
  • how social interaction explains the emergence of knowledge

Throughout the book, Stephen Butterfill draws on important case studies, including experiments with children on objects and their interactions, ‘false belief tasks’, and the process by which children come to see other people, not just themselves, as purposive agents. He shows how these questions can illuminate fundamental debates in philosophy of mind concerning the mind’s architecture, the explanatory power of representation, the social character of knowledge, and the nature of metacognitive feelings.

Additional features, such as a glossary and extensive bibliographic references, provide helpful tools for those coming to the subject for the first time.

Table of Contents


1. Introduction

Part 1: Physical Objects

2. Principles of Object Perception

3. The Simple View

4. The Linking Problem

5. Core Knowledge

6. Object Indexes and Motor Representations of Objects

7. Metacognitive Feelings

8. Conclusion to Part 1

Interlude on Innateness 

9. Innateness

Part 2: Minds and Actions

10. Action

11. A Theory of Goal Tracking

12. Mind: the Puzzle

13. Three Levels of Analysis

14. Mind: a Solution?

15. Joint Action

16. Conclusion to Part 2

17. Conclusion.

Glossary of Terms



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Stephen Butterfill is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Warwick, UK.


"It is fantastically difficult to cross the boundary between philosophy and psychology without getting embarrassingly stuck on the fence. Butterfill’s book demonstrates why the risk is more than balanced by the potential benefits for both sides. It will be an invaluable textbook, and should be read by anyone interested in the tight relationship between cutting-edge theory and evidence in developmental psychology and philosophy of mind." - Ian Apperly, University of Birmingham, UK