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What can psychological terms actually do? (Or: If Sigmund calls, tell him it didn't work)

McHoul, A. and Rapley, M. (2003) What can psychological terms actually do? (Or: If Sigmund calls, tell him it didn't work). Journal of Pragmatics, 35 (4). pp. 507-522.

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In this paper we describe some counter-psychological approaches to psychological terms such as ‘thinking’, ‘understanding’, ‘intending’ and so on. We draw on the work of Coulter, Ryle, Sacks and Wittgenstein in order to do this and, initially, to sketch out some general convergences between pragmatics, conversation analysis and discursive psychology. From here we go on to rehearse two analyses by Harvey Sacks; the first focusing on a single utterance (“I just had a thought”) and the second on a more extensive case of “inference making”. Because this leads us to doubt the often-assumed view that psychological terms have meaning by referring to mental states, we end with the question of ordinary, everyday practices of ‘referring to mental states’—an issue marking a potential difference between some Wittgensteinian scholars and discursive psychology.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Media, Communication and Culture
School of Psychology
Publisher: Elsevier
Copyright: 2003 Elsevier BV
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