I'm having difficulty with the language in this article on the Problem of Other Minds. It provides 3 solutions to the epistemological problem of other minds in section 1.1 - "The Epistemological Problem". I'm having difficulty understanding the third solution.

1. The Inferential Solution from Best Explanation

It first discusses the inferential solution - that the best explanation for the behavior of other people is that they have inner lives like our own. This is said to seem to be the most popular solution to other minds among philosophers.

2. The Anaological Inference Solution

Second, it explains that the traditional analogical inference is most common among "ordinary persons" (I assume they mean "non-philosophers" by this?). This is the inference that other people act like I do given similar circumstances, therefore I assume they have the same inner life that I do.

3. The Criterial Solution???

Third, it talks about the "criterial solution", and I can't quite grasp what they are saying. Here is the quote:

The criterial solution insists that the link between behavior and mental states is not an inference to the best explanation, and nor is it any kind of inductive inference. However, nor is the link an entailment (as in behaviorism). The relationship between mental states and behavior is claimed to be conceptual and characterized as criterial.

The Question

So my questions are:

  1. What does the above paragraph describing the Criterial Solution mean?

  2. Especially, I'm not sure what they mean by the phrase about the link between behavior and mental states not being an entailment, and what they mean that it is conceptual and therefore criterial.

  3. If the argument is that it is conceptual, then isn't this third "criterial" solution actually not an epistemological solution, and rather it is a declaration that there is not an epistemological solution and that one must solve this conceptually?


"Criterial" approach stems from Wittgenstein's view of meaning as use, and irreducibility of language to propositional knowledge and logic. Roughly speaking, according to Wittgenstein there are types of knowledge, such as skills, that fall under "know how" rather than "know what", and can not be expressed in propositions, truth conditions and inferences without severe distortions. One could call such knowledge "instinctive". For instance, when we swim we do not assess our position and then make inferences to what move to make, we just do, and when we itch we just scratch. Similarly, we do not make inferences as to existence of other minds, we just deal with others, it is part of our make-up. But to upload such non-propositional knowledge into logic one has to split it into propositions connected by inferences, because that is the way logic works, and such upload is unavoidably inadequate to the original content.

Wittgenstein's suggestion is to introduce what is now called "criterial evidence" (he talked about "symptoms"), which is stronger than mere induction because it relies on instinctive "conceptual ties". Presumably, moves from scratching to itching, or from empathy to other minds are of this sort. Shoemaker formalizes it as "S is a criterion for I" if "necessarily S is evidence for I". This is stronger than induction but weaker than inference, so unlike Kant's "conceptual containment" it comes with no logical necessity. However, this view is criticized as subject to gaps (simulation of symptoms), counterexamples ("phantom limb" pain), and even incoherence, see Canfield's Wittgenstein, Language and World (pp.79-95).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.