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I will argue for a three-tiered answer to the question.

(1) Only humans are able to track the contents of others’ false beliefs.

(2) Only humans are able to engage in ostensive cooperative communicative actions.

Since I assume that not all, but much, of the answer to the question is likely to come from the developmental investigation of the social cognitive capacities of preverbal human infants, I will argue that there is evidence that (1) and (2) are true of preverbal human infants.

Finally, I will argue for (3):

(3) The capacity to track the contents of others’ false beliefs derives from the demands of ostensive cooperative communication.


Pierre Jacob is a French philosopher of mind and the cognitive sciences. In the early 1980’s, he published a couple of books in French devoted to the rise and fall of logical empiricism in the philosophy of science (L’empirisme logique, ses antécédents, ses critiques, Paris, Editions de Minuit, 1980 et De Vienne à Cambridge, l’héritage du positivisme logique, Paris, Gallimard, 1980).

In the 1990’s much of his work was devoted to the metaphysics of intentionality from a naturalistic perspective (including a book entitled What Minds Can Do, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1997, whose French version is called Pourquoi les choses ont-elles un sens ? Paris, Odile Jacob, 1997. In 2004, he published L’Intentionnalité, problèmes de philosophie de l’esprit (Paris, Odile Jacob, 2004).

In the past fifteen years, his work has shifted from the metaphysics of intentionality to the philosophy of the cognitive sciences.

In collaboration with the French cognitive neuroscientist Marc Jeannerod (who died in 2011), he co-authored a book devoted to the two-visual systems model of human vision (Ways of Seeing, the Scope and Limits of Visual Cognition, Cognitive Science Series, Oxford University Press, 2003).

Recently, he has published papers devoted to issues in human social cognition, including the significance of the discovery of mirror neurons, empathy, mind-reading and moral cognition.

He holds a CNRS position at the Institut Jean Nicod in Paris. He was director of Institut Jean Nicod (2001-2009). He was elected President of the European Society for Philosophy and Psychology (2001-2003).

Read more about Pierre Jacob.