In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Philosophy of Psychology

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Anthologies
  • Personal versus Subpersonal Levels of Explanation
  • Consciousness
  • Animal Mentality
  • Mental Imagery
  • Spatial Representation
  • Motor Control
  • Emotion
  • First-Person Experiences and Introspection
  • Inner Speech

Philosophy Philosophy of Psychology
José Luis Bermúdez, Brandon Towl, James Reed
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 December 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 May 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0149


The philosophy of psychology is, broadly, the investigation of the philosophical foundations of psychology. It is distinct from other “philosophies of” various sciences, however, in that a rich tradition of investigation into the mind and its nature also exists within philosophy itself. Thus, the philosophy of psychology is also a systematic study into the interplay between philosophical concerns and psychological concerns in the study of cognition and behavior.

General Overviews

Several textbook introductions to the philosophy of psychology are available. Bermúdez 2005 gives an overview of several key issues and provides a unifying context for them. Somewhat dated, but still very worthwhile, is Sterelny 1991. Botterill and Carruthers 1999 provides another good overview, though the focus is more on language and intentionality. Rey 1997 is a reader in the philosophy of mind that has many relevant papers and section overviews. Weiskopf and Adams 2015 is a contemporary overview that also includes the authors own positions on the surveyed debates. Article-length treatments can also provide a good orientation, including Wilson 1999; Wilson 2006; and Mason, et al. 2008. Readers would also do well to consult general overviews from the separate Oxford Bibliographies Online articles on “Metaphysics of Mind” and “Philosophy of Cognitive Science.”

  • Bermúdez, José Luis. Philosophy of Psychology: A Contemporary Introduction. New York: Routledge, 2005.

    An overview of several key issues in philosophy of psychology, organized around the interface between commonsense (person-level) explanation and scientific (subpersonal) explanation.

  • Botterill, George, and Peter Carruthers. The Philosophy of Psychology. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511612428

    An overview for advanced undergraduates and graduates, focusing again on the relation between commonsense psychology and scientific psychology.

  • Mason, Kelby, Chandra Sekhar Sripada, and Stephen Stich. “The Philosophy of Psychology.” In The Routledge Companion to Twentieth-Century Philosophy. Edited by Dermont Moran, 583–617. London: Routledge, 2008.

    A balanced overview of the main debates with the philosophy of psychology.

  • Rey, Georges. Contemporary Philosophy of Mind: A Contentiously Classical Approach. Oxford: Blackwell, 1997.

    Contains several overview sections, and a (fairly partisan) development of the language of thought hypothesis.

  • Sterelny, Kim. The Representational Theory of Mind: An Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell, 1991.

    A defense of the representational theory of mind, with material on some key issues, such as the compatibility of representation with physicalism.

  • Weiskopf, Daniel, and Fred Adams. An Introduction to the Philosophy of Psychology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

    An overview of the central debates in the philosophy of psychology, including the authors’ own philosophical positions on them.

  • Wilson, Robert A. “Philosophy.” In The MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences. Edited by Robert A. Wilson and Frank C. Keil, xv–xxxviii. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999.

    An introductory encyclopedia entry on the contribution of philosophy to cognitive science, and by extension areas of psychology.

  • Wilson, Robert A. “The Philosophy of Psychology.” In The Philosophy of Science: An Encyclopedia. Edited by Sahotra Sarkar and Jessica Pfeifer, 613–619. New York: Routledge, 2006.

    A chapter-length overview of the area, with particular focus on the foundational assumptions of cognitive science.

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