I have never understood what the solution to the problem of other minds is.

At first, the article said that: "One standard line of reply to this question has been to appeal to analogy, another to best explanation."

Then the article says that the argument by analogy has become unusable. "While this argument was once popular (see, e.g., Russell 1923; Hampshire 1952), it soon came to be considered unfit for purpose due to the following considerations".

Then the article says that the argument from best explanation is the best solution to the problem: "the argument from best explanation is—either explicitly or implicitly—a form of argument that enjoys wide acceptance today. David Chalmers, for example, writes, "It … seems that this [argument from best explanation] is as good a solution to the problem of other minds as we are going to get""

Then the argument of the best explanation is criticized and supplemented: "Melnyk (1994) has argued that there is an important disanalogy between the scientific realist's reason for believing in theoretical entities and an ordinary person's reason for believing that other people have minds. His argument rests on the observation that gross behavioral evidence is insufficient for belief in another mind without additional reference to what one knows from one's own case. Melnyk can be read as advocating a hybrid account of our knowledge here, incorporating elements from the argument from analogy as a supplement to the inference from the best explanation."

And after all this: "A complete response to the problem of other minds seems obliged to incorporate more than one approach, and may have to incorporate several" (1994: 487). This is an observation others have also begun to advocate"

What then is the solution to the problem of other minds?

  • 3
    Maybe no known solution up to now... This is philosophy. Oct 25, 2022 at 11:55
  • Multiple kinds of responses to this problem (if it is a problem!) may be needed — and in particular no response might be sufficient to answer the most radical skeptic…
    – Joseph Weissman
    Oct 25, 2022 at 12:52

2 Answers 2


It's a related problem to solipsism: What are the best Arguments against solipsism?

And the reality of unpercieved phenomena: Is there anyway to prove things happen/exist if I'm not aware of them?

I would relate the specific framing of 'the problem of other minds' to Descartes cogito, and to dualism. In Descartes perspective, the only thing we can be truly sure of is that we are a thing that thinks, our epistemological and ontological structuring begins with an inward experience of observing something no one else has direct access to, our minds.

Wittgenstein's Private Language Argument directly attacks the basis of the cogito. In this picture already being at the point of using complex abstractions like 'I', 'thinking', and 'being', presupposes being in community with other minds, in order for them to have meaning, and examples and analogies in language games for us to understand ourselves in stating the cogito. So in this view, we are not fundamentally disembodied brains evaluating the world, but instead we arise from and inherit interacting processes Wittgenstein calls Language Games: the learning we did as children, the way we collectively as a society structure that learning so we can engage in types of discourse like philosophy, and above all our evolving purposes in communicating together which develop in context.

Another response is the Turing Test, which amounts to a pragmatic choice, that 'If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it's a duck'. There are many problems to applying Turing Tests in practice, and little agreement about either what such a test should consist of, or what passing it would imply. The core point Turing made though, is that there can be a pragmatic threshold at which it simply more reasonable to treat a digital mind as sentient - and of course that applies also to other humans.

A challenge to the idea cognition alone can give rise to sentience is posed by the idea of Embodied Cognition, the idea embodiment and having a mental model of the body linked to sensory input is essential to sentience, eg see this article Is the body key to understanding consciousness?. But then you have to grapple with the Hard Problem of Consciousness, a different topic - see outline of some of the major disagreements here PhilPapers Survey 2020, Why do so many physicalists deny consciousness of future AI systems?


The most significant lines in the linked SEP article come right at the beginning, where it says:

[O]n closer inspection one finds there is little agreement either about the problem or the solution to it. Indeed, there is little agreement about whether there is a problem here at all.

It's just not clear that there is a real problem here, as opposed to what Wittgenstein would call 'mere philosophizing', so it's not clear whether we need a solution to the problem or a therapy to absolve us of the problem entirely.

To my mind (pun intended), the problem of 'other minds' is a result of the Empiricist approach to cognition, which tends to want to place the mind as an isolated, objectified focus of study. The Empiricist approach is to conceptualize outward from the thinking mind to the greater world, invoking a solipsistic worldview by default. 'Other minds' appear as objects in the environment that the thinking mind responds to, making it difficult to see the difference between a thinking mind and (say) a weather front or a brick wall: things we just anticipate and navigate. and thus 'other minds' are never quite real in the empirical approach; they are just posited.

Any more sociological/critical (Rationalist) is always confronted why the fact that we don't just anticipate and navigate other minds. We have to intuit what other minds want, because satisfying what other minds want is essential to satisfying our own wants. This is a process that goes back to infancy, where we struggle and learn to communicate our needs in ways that result in other people fulfilling them, and leads up through language and cultural norms. We must perforce believe in 'other minds', because we need other minds to reach for and intuit our needs in the same way we reach for and intuit theirs. Without that interactive process, no one would survive the first days of life.

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