I have read several versions of the IBE argument for the existence of other minds. But I got a little confused. Now I'm not sure I know what it should sound like.

How should the IBE argument (argument of the best explanation) sound in favor of the existence of other minds?

Are there any formal formulations of this argument?

Should I use only the official formulation of the argument, and would it be irrational to use all other unofficial versions of the argument?

thank you

  • It basically turns the "I think, therefore I am" around and points it at other people. They appear to think, and lacking any other way of explaining what we see, that is probably the answer. Nobel Prize for coming up with a disproof. But then, no one would exist to give it.
    – Scott Rowe
    Nov 30, 2023 at 20:18

2 Answers 2


The Inference to the Best Explanation (IBE) argument for the existence of other minds is a philosophical reasoning that aims to establish that other minds exist based on the best available explanation for our observations of behavior in others. The argument might be formulated as follows:

  1. I observe behaviors in others (such as speaking, laughing, crying, etc.) that in my own case are associated with particular mental states (such as happiness, sadness, etc.).
  2. The best explanation for these observed behaviors is that they are caused by similar mental states in others.
  3. Therefore, I infer that other minds exist.

When it comes to formulating philosophical arguments, there isn't really such a thing as an "official" formulation. Philosophy is a discourse, and different thinkers may present different formulations of the same basic arguments. Some versions might be more rigorous or detailed than others, but that doesn't make them more "official."

What matters in philosophy is not whether an argument is official, but whether it is valid and sound. A valid argument is one where if the premises are true, the conclusion must necessarily be true. A sound argument is a valid argument with true premises.

Using different versions of the argument can be useful for understanding different aspects of it, or for presenting it in a way that is more accessible to different audiences. So no, it would not be irrational to use unofficial versions of the argument. However, it's always a good idea to be clear about what version of an argument you're using and why.

  • thank you. and which formulation of IBE is the most common in professional philosophy?
    – Johnny5454
    Aug 2, 2023 at 15:56

The word "official" is not a philosophical term. You also said "formal". Did you mean an argument in formal logic? I prefer arguments in natural language. As regards this particular argument, I prefer simply to state that I can reasonably infer the existence of other minds. In my view, the point about the association between behaviours and mental states is implicit. Bertrand Russell called inference from best evidence (IBE) analogical inference in relation to other minds. To paraphrase:-

  1. My behaviour is preceded by a mental state.
  2. I see similar behaviour in other people.
  3. I can reasonably infer that behaviour in other people is preceded by a mental state.

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