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What is meant by the behavior of other people in the best explanation argument?

What is included in the behavior of other people?

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/other-minds/#BestExpl

How does the behavior of other people tell us that other people also have thoughts, emotions, feelings, consciousness?

How does this argument work?

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  • If it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, then it is probably... "A witch!"
    – Scott Rowe
    Aug 31, 2022 at 10:34

1 Answer 1

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It's somewhat similar to Ockham's razor.

"I do have a mind, as is obvious. Others look like they have a mind like me, but somehow in fact they are automatons who mimic the feelings and emotions only I genuinely have" raises lots of unanswerable questions like

  • "how come only me has a mind?"
  • "How come our brains look similar as far as can be investigated without harming me?"
  • "If others are just mimicking, who or what made them so good at mimicking my own emotions?"

On the other hand "others look like they have emotions like me because, like me, they have emotions" is simple and solves the problem just as good as the other hypothesis. It can therefore arguably said to be the best explanation.

As stated in the article, such a thought process is called abduction, it is to say holding as the truth the most convincing explanation considered so far. It has the obvious drawback that the real explanation might not have been considered yet, like in the infamous false dichotomy fallacy: "evolution looks improbable because of [insert cherry picked argument here], therefore the creation account of Genesis is true" : many other explanations could be the case.

But because consciousness is a "hard problem" and we can't investigate other people's feelings beyond the appearances of their manifestation, we are stuck with this abduction. As stated in the article "as good a solution to the problem of other minds as we are going to get".

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  • What is meant by the behavior of other people in the best explanation argument? What is included in the behavior of other people?
    – Arnold3
    Jul 9, 2022 at 12:16
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    The fact that they show emotions like I do. If I watch a sad movie I cry, the person sat next to me in the theater cries too. What is the best explanation? That they felt sad like me or that they are an automaton programmed to cry when they see a sad movie? (Btw, how do they identify it as sad if they have no emotions? etc...)
    – armand
    Jul 9, 2022 at 12:19
  • What about thoughts? How does the behavior of other people show that other people have thoughts? How does behavior show that other people are thinking too?
    – Arnold3
    Jul 9, 2022 at 12:23
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    If you could point me to what you don't get, it would be helpful because it's quite straightforwardly put in my opinion (but of course, I wrote it so I'm not objective...)
    – armand
    Jul 10, 2022 at 5:16
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    If you hear someone a explain their views about a given subject, and these views have some originality, you never heard the subject addressed in this way, this person actually looks like they are thinking. You could also ask them questions, and they would answer in a meaningful way, actually addressing your remarks. In other words, their behavior is that of a thinking person like you know you are. What is the most probable explanation to this behavior? That they have thoughts like you do, or that they are an automaton elaborate enough to fool you? What hypothesis raises the less questions?
    – armand
    Jul 10, 2022 at 8:45

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