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other minds

Subject Philosophy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405106795.2004.x


P hilosophy of mind If one can have direct know-ledge only of one's own mental states , it is a serious philosophical question how and what we can know about other minds, that is, whether other persons have minds and what other persons are thinking and feeling. Descartes saw free and intelligent action , especially in the use of language, inexplicable without the actor having a mind. A prominent traditional account relies on an argument by analogy. We may find correlations between our own physical behavior and our own psychological or mental states. The knowledge of these correlations can be used as inductive evidence, so that if we observe similar physical behavior exhibited by another person, we can infer ultimately by appeal to our own experience, that he has a certain kind of mental state. The conclusion thus inferred is not secure, for physical resemblance does not logically entail mental resemblance, the inductive base is very small, and we can never check to see if our inference is sound. This argument is criticized for example by behaviorists , who argue that if psychophysical relationships are contingent , then one cannot even establish a correlation between bodily states and mental states. Wittgenstein 's rejection of the possibility of a private language has challenged the basis of the argument by analogy, and for some philosophers it has undermined the ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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