Paul Vanderveen

Concept of Mind: Thinking about Self and Others

M.A., Philosophy, University of California, Santa Barbara
M.S., Education, Purdue University

Copyright ©1999, 2003 Paul Vanderveen


I.  Central Article: "Formation of the Concept of Mind"

Formation of the Concept of Mind explores human development from the preschool years, with its active learning about such actions as thinking, remembering, guessing and pretending, to adulthood and explicit knowledge of minds as such. This article is my original presentation of my central thesis. Published in Objectivity, Vol. 1, No. 6 (1993), it draws extensively on theory of mind and related scientific research. It challenges the long-standing and widely held view that one learns to think in terms of one's mind through an inwardly directed cognitive process. Conceptualizing minds instead requires that one cognitively integrate two or more -- that is, one's own and other minds.

II.  Posts: Central Thesis Defended

The following essays, from the moderated e-mail discussion list Objectivism-L, constitute my contributions to a dialogue -- my responses to members who have objections to or questions about my thesis as to how we reach the concept of mind or who propose other theories. My first post, "Forming the concept of mind," responds to a member's comment that "we introspectively identify" the mind. The only way to reach the concept of mind, I reply, is to cognitively integrate two or more units--"self and others."
  1. Forming the Concept of Mind
  2. Basing the Concept of Mind on Reality
  3. Proper Names and Concepts
  4. The Concept of Mind and Certain Symmetries
  5. Concluding Remarks about Forming the Concept of Mind
  6. Recognizing Minds
  7. The Problem of "Other" Minds
  8. Concept of Mind and Early Development
  9. Retaining the Concept of Mind
10. Ayn Rand and Other Minds
11. Perceiving Other Minds Directly?
12. Preconceptually Apprehending Other Minds?
13. Inferences about Other Minds
14. The Units of the Concept of Mind

An edit log notes all edits of these posts.

III.  Thematic Serial

"A New Type of Rendition" introduces an idea for a new type of television program, the thematic serial, using Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged as an illustration (posted to the Objectivism-L list, October 19, 1998). This type of programming, building on the nature of conceptualization, would effectively convey how a particular mind functions.

IV.  African Explorations

In January 1996, I moved to Senegal, my first experience abroad. Dakar served for two and a half years as my base for exploring various locales in Africa and Asia, where I interacted with local people, observed similarities and differences, tested my impressions and struggled to maintain a stance respectful of myself and others as independent equals, no mean feat in lands so different from the United States in wealth, culture and history.

What is America? A view from outside, written near the end of this period, summarizes my changed perspective on life in the United States (posted to the Objectivism-L list, April 24, 1998).

Throughout this period, I chronicled my experiences which especially contributed to or marked my changed perspective. Here are the first few months of those experiences:

  1. First Bribe
  2. You Decide
  3. Acknowledging Others
  4. Passing Grade
  5. Negotiating Different Cultures
  6. How Do You Say "Help" in Arabic?
  7. Risks in the Developing World
  8. Un, Deux, Trois
  9. Hello But No Cadeau