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Are the perceptual arguments for the existence of other minds convincing and good?

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

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/other-minds/#BestExpl The article states that: "A complete response to the problem of other minds seems obliged to incorporate more than one approach, and may have to incorporate several"

What arguments in the article should be used together to get a complete, convincing answer?

If we use the best explanation argument together with perceptual arguments, will it be reasonable, complete and convincing?

Thank you

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  • "Perceptual arguments" just repackage inferences to the best explanation, as can be seen, for example, from Green's Perceiving Emotions. He models "direct perception" on forensic inferences of the sort:"The fibres on the floor of the burned house show that someone with a certain type of shoe walked down the hall at about the time of the fire". One can reasonably argue they are good enough to deserve the name, but renaming does not make for any extra convincing.
    – Conifold
    Dec 9, 2022 at 7:27
  • The article states that: "A complete response to the problem of other minds seems obliged to incorporate more than one approach, and may have to incorporate several" What arguments in the article should be used together to get a complete, convincing answer? If we use the best explanation argument together with the perceptual arguments, will it be reasonable and convincing? Dec 9, 2022 at 7:43
  • Or there is no sense and is it not reasonable to use the best explanation argument along with perceptual arguments? Dec 9, 2022 at 7:50
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    How many times are you planning to ask this same question? Dec 9, 2022 at 22:01
  • @DavidGudeman 😅 As far as I can tell, the point is to see the lux in tenebris. May 8, 2023 at 15:06

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To me, yes. Indeed I find the common arguments for the existence of other minds to be so self-evident that I find most of the content of the paper you cited to be empty nonsense. However, I think you are conflating two issues. The best explanation argument is more about the existence of other minds, while the perceptual arguments are more about the state of other minds. Clearly there is a lot of overlap between the two subjects.

My view on the existence of other minds is that I am a human with a brain and a mind, that there appears to be no-end of evidence that the brain and mind are linked in some way and that my ability to act as a human depends upon my having a mind, that there are billions of others who are able to act like humans and have brains, and therefore it is overwhelmingly likely they have minds too. I admit there is a possibility that my experience of the universe is a hallucination, but the possibility is so utterly remote that I would not want to waste a nanosecond considering it.

My view on the question of whether we can know the state of other minds through perception is that the arguments I have read about it in the paper you quoted are arguments at cross purpose and ill-informed. We can reasonably infer aspects of a person's mental state from perceiving what they do or say. We can learn something about mental states by perceiving the results of measurements by brain scanning devices and so on.

However, there is a limit to what we can know through perception. If I write a sentence in plain text, you can look at it and understand what it means. If I present the same sentence to you encoded in bits you cannot understand what it means by looking at it. In a similar vein, you can understand what your computer is presenting to you on the screen by looking at it- the display is an outward, perceptible, manifestation of the inner state of bits and bytes in your computer, but you cannot directly observe the inner states.

To go further, if you view my answers on two devices, one a PC and one a Mac, you will see each device render my answer in exactly the same way, but the inner states of the two devices will be quite unalike and you cannot directly observe and compare them.

So it is with minds. You might say to me that a daffodil is yellow, and I might infer something from that, but I can never know whether your experience of the colour yellow is the same as mine.

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  • " My view on the existence of other minds is that I am a human with a brain and a mind, " - Are you using an analogy argument here? Dec 9, 2022 at 7:58
  • No, but there is an overlap between my view and the argument of analogy. Crudely put, the analogy argument is that I have a mind, other people are like me, so they must have minds. My position is almost the reverse- the assumption that humans have minds is the best explanation for the world around us, and therefore I have a mind because I am a human. Dec 9, 2022 at 9:44
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There is presumably some evolutionary grounding for social cognition and prosocial emotion. The autism spectrum can be interpreted as involving differences in the former, whereas sociopathology can be interpreted as involving the absence of, or opposition to, the latter. But so human groups with predominantly compromised social cognition/emotion would face coordination problems that would lower group survival tendencies in unfavorable circumstances.*

The "upshot" is that most people "directly perceive" the thoughts and feelings of others simply because humans in general have evolved to believe in those things. Note that not everyone has as "inner monologue", so in a sense not everyone "directly perceives" their own thoughts, though.


*This is not a moral assessment. People on the autism spectrum usually have well-functioning prosocial emotional capacities and are no likelier to engage in antisocial behavior than people not on the spectrum; they might register social cues differently, leading to coordination problems, but that is a separate issue. Perhaps they sometimes even have a more clear-eyed sense of moral cognition in general, since they are less likely to be corrupted by amour-propre.

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    I would add that people on the autism spectrum may have the advantage that some give active thought to the thoughts and feelings of others that they don't necessarily "directly perceive". Sometimes rational deliberation is better than perception and intuition. Sep 5, 2023 at 15:22
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What you refer to as perceptual arguments reasonably infer other minds from observed behaviour. All knowledge is grounded in one's own consciousness. I do not know what you would find convincing. The alternative is unreasonable - solipsism. I find the inference of other minds reasonable and useful.

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