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Hayek's Self-Organizing Mental Order and Folk-Psychological Theories of the Mind

Hayek in Mind: Hayek's Philosophical Psychology

ISBN: 978-1-78052-398-9, eISBN: 978-1-78052-399-6

ISSN: 1529-2134

Publication date: 6 December 2011


Purpose – To present Hayek's model of the sensory order, especially in relation to communication, classification and subjective knowledge, arguing for the necessity of a more articulated theory of the “inter-personal” dimension of the mind. We proposed then to integrate Hayek's model of the mind with the concept of “folk psychology” or “theory of mind” elaborated by modern philosophy.

Methodological approach – This chapter is philosophical but draws on the empirical.

Findings – Hayek proposed a model of the mind and the social order that explains how dispersed and fragmented knowledge can spread in a society of individuals [Hayek, F. A. (1945). The use of knowledge in society. The American Economic Review, 35(4), 519–530]. His social and psychological theories have been dedicated to the study of the spontaneous emergence of orders: institutional and mental orders are tightened together in his epistemology. However, we found that Hayek developed only in nuce the social dimension of the mind: behaviors are determined by mental events and his philosophical psychology is then “mentalistic,” that is focused on the understanding of individual inner psychological states, their relation with external stimuli and behaviors, without explaining how individuals interpret other people's mental states.

Research limitations/implications – Hayek seems not to explicitly consider the interaction between personal psychological events and other people's mental events, missing then a fundamental activity played by the mental order, that is the capacity to understand, interpret, and attribute other people's mental states, in a word to mentalize.

Originality/value of the paper – To read Hayek's philosophical psychology under a new light, which focus on the importance of the interpersonal dimension of mental processes.



Chelini, C. (2011), "Hayek's Self-Organizing Mental Order and Folk-Psychological Theories of the Mind", Marsh, L. (Ed.) Hayek in Mind: Hayek's Philosophical Psychology (Advances in Austrian Economics, Vol. 15), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 199-218.



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