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What arguments can I use to justify my belief in other minds?

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

Here are all the arguments in favor of the existence of other minds, but I do not understand which of them can be used.

I believe that other people also have minds, but I don't know what arguments can be used to support my belief.

The argument by analogy turned out to be inapplicable.

The best explanation argument has been criticized and needs to be supplemented.

Criteria is considered a less standard approach.

It turns out that all arguments in favor of the existence of other minds are unusable?

How then to justify my belief in other minds?

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  • 3
    You are asking the same question multiple times. Please don't.
    – CriglCragl
    Oct 25, 2022 at 13:53
  • Excuse me, they just don't give me an answer.
    – Johnny5454
    Oct 25, 2022 at 13:54
  • 1
    4 similar questions over 14 hours? People just don’t have that much time on their hands. Give your question a couple of days for people to read and respond. If you think rephrasing would clarify, you can edit the original question.
    – user62966
    Oct 25, 2022 at 14:29
  • Voting to close all of these other repeat questions.
    – Dcleve
    Oct 25, 2022 at 15:46

3 Answers 3

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What arguments can I use to justify my belief in other minds?

I don't know you, but don't other humans appear on the face of them strikingly similar to yourself. If this is so, isn't that enough?

More fundamentally, why would you need any argument if other minds did not exist?

We don't seem to need to justify our personal beliefs to ourselves. This is part of what it means to have beliefs. Do you need to justify your belief that other minds exist to other people? Presumably, other people don't need your justification. They know that their own mind exists and so they know that a mind other than yours exists, so they know that your belief is true. They have no need for your justification.

Nobody needs your justification, not even yourself.

Reasonable people seem to agree that we cannot share our own subjective experience with other people. Thus, we don't actually know that other people have a subjective experience. Yet, most people certainly seem to behave as if they believe other people have a mind. In particular, most people seem to spend a lot of time trying to understand what other people have in mind from what they do and what they say, which in itself implies that they believe other people have a mind. Thus, it seems that all we have is our belief and the fact that there does not seem to be any good reason to disbelieve.

Isn't that enough? Given that humanity has successfully survived for apparently more than 300,000 years, it seems that there is no good reason to ditch our belief.

Keep in mind that this answer assumes that the sort of mind that your question considers is the same sort I believe I have. If you have a different sort of mind, it is probably better for you to disregard my answer.

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  • Thank you. Why did you say that: "More fundamentally, why would you need any argument if other minds did not exist?"
    – Johnny5454
    Oct 25, 2022 at 18:22
  • @Johnny5454 "Why did you say (...)" ??? Isn't it clear that what follows in my answer is precisely a justification of that?! Isn't it enough of a justification? Oct 26, 2022 at 9:58
  • I think he was asking for clarification, not a justification. I was thrown by the 'not' also. Why bring in the opposite case? You don't have to reply, I just wanted to mention it.
    – Scott Rowe
    Oct 26, 2022 at 10:50
  • @ScottRowe "he was asking for clarification (...) I was thrown by the 'not' also" The sentence is simple, and unproblematic at least to proficient speakers of English. The "not" is where it should be. There is nothing to clarify about it. Oct 26, 2022 at 16:34
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    "More fundamentally, why would you need any argument if other minds did not exist?"-Why did you make a statement in favor of solipsism?
    – Johnny5454
    Oct 26, 2022 at 18:15
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I'm not sure whether the fact that all the arguments have been criticized is sufficient reason to regard them as unusable. What matters is whether the criticisms are valid. You may be right, but I want to start before them.

The first thing to do is to think about the question. If argument is necessary, it must be because the mind is hidden or at least not obvious. I think that is a misunderstanding, but I would like to talk about the concept of a person first.

We are social creatures adapted by evolution to live with other people. The process begins as soon as we are born. I'm not sure just when the process ends - perhaps never.

We form relationships with other people, and they with us. So a person is, essentially, a being with whom we can relate in specific ways. This is the foundation of everything else, including language, of course including the concept of "mind" and the place of that concept among the language interactions we have learnt.

As we grow up, we realize that not everything is a person and learn how to tell the difference. We learn to treat non-persons differently. We also learn that there are beings very like persons who can be treated in certain respects like people, and which will reciprocate in their fashion. We call these animals.

So when I walk down the street and see another human being, I don't wonder whether this human being is a person. I treat them as a person and when they respond appropriately, the relationship becomes a possibility and may or may not build from there.

So the question should not be "Are there other minds?" but "Is there any reason to believe that this human being (or animal) is not a person?". If they are not a person, they will not have a mind. If they are, by definition they do.

In other words, the question whether this human being has a mind is answered by the relationship between us, not any argument.

It is possible you may recognize the influence of Wittgenstein in this, and you will find a lot of the detailed argument that sits behind this in the literature about his work, which is quite voluminous.

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  • Yes, and when there is an absence of a mind in something that looks like a person, it is noticeable (coma, stroke, advanced Alzheimer's etc.)
    – Scott Rowe
    Oct 26, 2022 at 23:24
  • As well as coma, stroke, dementia etc., the most dramatic and common case is death. But it does NOT follow that people with those conditions are non-persons. Because we have formed personal relationships (or at least other people have), we do not treat them simply as objects. We adapt to their responses or lack of them as appropriate to the specific case. In the case of death, we conclude that mental functions have permanently ceased. But the person is still not simply treated as an object (normally). Personhood is a very flexible and adaptable, so it is complicated.
    – Ludwig V
    Oct 27, 2022 at 8:14
  • Thank you. So, personhood is not a one to one match with having a mind, although usually they are both true at once. If you see a building front that looks like a house, it probably is, but it could be part of a movie set.
    – Scott Rowe
    Oct 27, 2022 at 14:36
  • @ScottRowe I can't think of circumstances in which I would say that X is a person who doesn't have a mind. Perhaps zombies would count. But I'm not sure that zombies are really possible (any more than winged horses are, and in any case they are ex-persons, like the dead. One might be deceived into believing that a robot is a person, though Turing's test suggest that isn't possible, but I think that if I accepted that a robot was a person, I would be accepting that he/she/it has (is) a mind. The concept "person" has a larve penumbra of borderline and marginal cases.
    – Ludwig V
    Oct 30, 2022 at 6:41
  • Ok. I was following on from situations like coma, where we agree that there is no functioning mind (at that time, it can return). I treat pet animals as persons that have minds, although they are not legal persons, and their minds are very different from mine. Wild animals have minds, but are not like persons. People do in fact think that conversational AI programs have minds, and talk with them successfully and happily. This is true now in Japan and China, I think. Robots will be even bigger targets for this. But they have no self-awareness.
    – Scott Rowe
    Oct 30, 2022 at 12:27
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One option here is to adopt something like phenomenal conservatism. Broadly speaking, this is the view that "If it seems to S that P, then, in the absence of defeaters, S thereby has at least some justification for believing that P" (Huemer 2007, p. 30). In other words, when it comes to basic, common-sense beliefs (such as that other minds exist), you don't need arguments to rationally accept them; the onus is instead on the skeptic to give you some actual reason for doubting them to be true.

Now, as for why you might actually think that phenomenal conservatism is true (as opposed to simply being an ad hoc way of avoiding skeptical challenges), I would direct you to the IEP article on the topic. The IEP usually isn't great (the SEP is pretty much always a better option), but this particular article is written by Michael Huemer, whose is the originator (and most prominent defender) of PC; hence, he's a pretty reliable authority on this particular matter.

Even if PC doesn't seem right to you, you could still adopt a sort of broadly common-sense epistemology. The idea here is basically that we should be more confident in our ordinary, common-sense beliefs than we are in any of the premises of any skeptical argument which seeks to undermine them. Hence, when Zeno comes along claiming to have proven that motion is impossible, we can simply ask him to list the premises in his argument, and it's pretty much a sure bet that none of them will be as plausible as the ordinary belief that things really move. Hence, we should prefer the rejection of those premises (or one of them, at least) over the rejection of our ordinary beliefs. For a nice defense of common-sense epistemology, see Doulas and Welchance (2021).

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  • To have a mind, you have to first have half a mind, and so on. But yeah, extraordinary skepticism requires extraordinary proof.
    – Scott Rowe
    Oct 27, 2022 at 0:50

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