Mind and Supermind

by Keith Frankish

Mind and Supermind back cover
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Mind and Supermind front cover

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Series: Cambridge Studies in Philosophy
Format: Hardback, paperback, Adobe eBook Reader, 270 pages, 2 b/w illus, 2 tables
ISBN: HB 9780521812030, PB 9780521038119
Publication date: HB 16 September 2004, PB July 2007
Publishers’ book webpage


Mind and Supermind offers a new perspective on the nature of belief and the structure of the human mind. Keith Frankish argues that the folk-psychological term ‘belief’ refers to two distinct types of mental state, which have different properties and support different kinds of mental explanation. Building on this claim, he develops a picture of the human mind as a two-level structure, consisting of a basic mind and a supermind, and shows how the resulting account sheds light on a number of puzzling phenomena and helps to vindicate folk psychology. Topics discussed include the function of conscious thought, the cognitive role of natural language, the relation between partial and flat-out belief, the possibility of active belief formation, and the nature of akrasia, self-deception, and first-person authority. This book will be valuable for philosophers, psychologists, and cognitive scientists.

Click this link for a more detailed overview of the book.


List of figures
1. Introduction
2. Divisions in folk psychology
3. Challenges and precedents
4. The premising machine
5. Superbelief and the supermind
6. Propositional modularity
7. Conceptual modularity
8. Further applications
Author index
Subject index.


Praise for Mind and Supermind

Mind and Supermind is a fine book. I’ve read only parts so far, but I am in general delighted to see what you have done with the two strands. Your figure 1 is a very compelling synopsis. I hope your book is widely read, cited, and understood!”
Daniel C. Dennett, Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy, University Professor, and Co-Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies, Tufts University

“This is an important contribution to our understanding of mind and of the nature of belief. Frankish explores, with care and imagination, the subtle ways in which science and our ‘folk’ image converge and diverge. Folk psychology, according to Frankish, has two distinct theoretical cores. Failure to make this distinction leads to confusion and cross talk. In this well-paced and readable treatment, Frankish offers a clear, constructive and original angle on some of the most persistent and perplexing problems in the field. Recommended reading for anyone interested in the philosophy and science of mind and belief.”
Andy Clark, Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Cognitive Science program, Indiana University

“Frankish’s book is an outstanding original contribution to the philosophy of mind. It is written with immense clarity and rigor, and digs deep. It is easily the most sophisticated and plausible defense of a two-level account of the human mind in the literature. Anyone with a serious interest in philosophy of mind should read it.”
Peter Carruthers, Professor and Chair, Department of Philosophy, University of Maryland

Mind and Supermind is an excellent piece of work, which makes an important contribution to the philosophy of mind and psychology. It focuses on some of the most crucial problems in this field: the adequacy of our ordinary notion of belief and of folk psychology for a scientific conception of the mind, the relationship of thought to language, the nature of consciousness, and especially the problem of what might be called the unity of the mind (is the mind a modular system partitioned into several sub-structures, or is it in some sense a seamless unity?). On all these issues, Keith Frankish brings a new and very interesting perspective. The main theme of the book, that we need a layered conception of the mind, composed mainly of two systems – mind and supermind – has been in the air for some time, especially with philosophers like Keith Lehrer, Jonathan Cohen and Michael Bratman and the discussions about belief vs acceptance. It has been also implicit in many discussions about the nature of “partial” beliefs vs ”full” belief in the Bayesian tradition. One of the great merits of this book is that it brings together all these discussions in a systematic way, dissipates many obscurities and ambiguities, provides a comprehensive framework to understand them, and draws their consequences for many issues in the philosophy of mind. … On the whole the theory proposed here is well articulated, ambitious but at the same time well circumscribed. I found the general line convincing, perhaps because I am myself convinced that we need a layered model of the architecture of the mind, but also because the approach is original and the argument persuasive. The book sheds light, and brings new thought, on many puzzling issues and debates in this field, such as the voluntariness of belief, the nature of modularity, akrasia and self deception. It is also an important contribution in the ontology of mind.”
Pascal Engel, Professor of Philosophy, University of Geneva


“The arguments for believing in a supermind and its potential application in helping us to understand certain puzzling phenomena are well made. Akrasia and self-deception are cases in point. … Frankish’s treatment of first-person authority, in which he develops the idea that avowals are special kinds of ‘performative’— incorporating commitment or re-commitment to premising policies—is also worthy of special attention. … There is a great deal to admire in the book. … It advances some very challenging claims and fertile proposals and is a valuable book. I recommend adopting and sticking to a policy of reading it.”
Daniel D. Hutto in Mind,  vol. 116 (461), Jan 2007, pp. 170-3. Read the full review

“Frankish’s book pins down and clarifies many existing tensions in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science. There are indeed a wide variety of topics whose treatment would become more fruitful if we do not treat the folk-psychological notion of belief as picking up a unitary cognitive kind. These topics go beyond the nature of folk psychology, and include, for instance, the role of perception in belief acquisition, the prospects for naturalized accounts of belief, and the moral psychology of belief, not to mention more empirically orientated ones like the nature of non-conscious thought vis à vis, e.g., self-knowledge and delusion. Frankish does not here deploy the complex machinery of mind and supermind to shed light on these important topics, but they provide one possible direction of future research.”
Josefa Toribio in The Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 57 (226), Jan 2007, pp. 139-42. Read the full review.

“[I]n Mind and Supermind Frankish offers a fresh and challengingly new perspective to debates over folk psychology and the nature of belief. The chief value of this work lies more in its role as a contribution to the sparse but growing literature by philosophers whose concerns about the nature of belief are not explicitly epistemological. But there is much in this book that should be of value for epistemologists (especially those working on doxastic voluntarism and epistemic responsibility). So the potential readership goes beyond those working in the philosophy of psychology. This book merits careful reading by anyone with research interests in folk psychology — and especially philosophers and psychologists interested in the nature of belief.”
Andrei Buckareff, Philosophy in Review, vol. 26, 2006, pp. 254-56. Read the full review.

“[Frankish] takes us on an interesting and stimulating survey of the conceptual issues, … [which] illustrate[s] very well the connections between various positions on folk psychology, rationality, and the concept of belief.”
Dominic Murphy, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, 2005.10.20. Read the full review.

There is also some discussion of the book on Eric Schwitzgebel’s blog The Splintered Mind. See the posts here, here, and here. The last of these contains my reply to Dominic Murphy’s review above.

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