A Difficulty of Simulation Theory Due to the Close Connection of Pretense and Action in Early Childhood

Eric Schwitzgebel


Much of the appeal of simulation theory stems from the fact that a conscious process something like simulation seems to underlie certain of our mental state attributions. However, if young children consciously simulate, and if simulation is a form of pretense, then we should expect them, at least sometimes, to act out their simulations. Since we do not ordinarily see this, it follows that children either do not consciously simulate or that simulation is further removed from pretense than its advocates typically claim.

Please Note: The criticism of simulation theory raised in this paper applies primarily to Robert Gordon's work and Paul Harris' work from 1989 through the early 1990's.  In 2000 in particular, two books came out that diminished the relevance of this paper: Paul Harris' book, The Work of the Imagination, and Kogler's and Stueber's anthology, Empathy and Agency.  Harris and several of the authors in Empathy and Agency make significant progress toward the goal I outline at the end of my paper.  Because of the diminished relevance of the paper, I am not seeking broader publication.  Please request my permission before citing this paper.

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A Difficulty for Simulation Theory (August 3, 2000)

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