The question of what it means to be aware of others as subjects of mental states is often construed as the question of how we are epistemically justified in attributing mental states to others. The dominant answer to this latter question is that we are so justified in virtue of grasping the role of mental states in explaining observed behaviour. This chapter challenges this picture and formulates an alternative by reflecting on the interpretation of early joint attention interactions. It argues (...) that the standard picture is committed to an implausible account of children's awareness of the co-attender's focus of attention. On a more natural interpretation, children engaged in joint attention perceptually recognize the co-attender's attitude to some object, as something like the (correct) answer to the question of what the object is like. The developmentally basic case is not that of attributing mental states as the causes of observed behaviour but of understanding perceived attitudes and actions as appropriate responses to the shared world. The chapter concludes by exploring how this developmental claim bears on mature adult knowledge of otherminds. (shrink)
Sometime around their first birthday most infants begin to engage in relatively sustained bouts of attending together with their caretakers to objects in their environment. By the age of 18 months, on most accounts, they are engaging in full-blown episodes of joint attention. As developmental psychologists (usually) use the term, for such joint attention to be in play, it is not sufficient that the infant and the adult are in fact attending to the same object, nor that the one’s attention (...) cause the other’s. The latter can and does happen much earlier, whenever the adult follows the baby’s gaze and homes in on the same object as the baby is attending to; or, from the age of six months, when babies begin to follow the gaze of an adult. We have the relevant sense of joint attention in play only when the fact that both child and adult are attending to the same object is, to use Sperber and Wilson’s (1986) phrase, ‘mutually manifest’. Psychologists sometimes speak of such jointness as a case of attention being ‘shared’ by infant and adult, or of a ‘meeting of minds’ between infant and adult, all phrases intended to capture the idea that when joint attention occurs everything about the fact that both subjects are attending to the same object is out in the open, manifest to both participants. (shrink)
What is the relation between emotional experience and its behavioural expression? As very preliminary clarification, I mean by ‘emotional experience’ such things as the subjective feeling of being afraid of something, or of being angry at someone. On the side of behavioural expression, I focus on such things as cowering in fear, or shaking a fist or thumping the table in anger. Very crudely, this is behaviour intermediate between the bodily changes which just happen in emotional arousal, such as sweating (...) or the secretion of adrenalin, and reasoned actions done ‘out of an emotion’, such as breathing deeply to clam down, or writing a letter of complaint, for which a standard rationalizing explanation can be given.1 I pursue the relation between this experience and expression in a somewhat roundabout manner. First, I note an analogy between a problem of otherminds, and Berkeley’s (1975) challenge to Locke’s (1975) realism. Second, I sketch what I regard as the correct strategy for meeting this challenge. Third, I develop and defend a parallel response to the problem of otherminds, as this applies to certain basic directed emotions. This yields the following answer to my opening question. Reference to the appropriate expressive behaviour is essential to the identification of the way in which various emotional experiences present their worldly objects. (shrink)
This chapter argues that the conceptual problem of otherminds cannot be properly addressed as long as we subscribe to an individualistic model of how we stand in relation to our own experiences and the behaviour of others. For it is commitment to this picture that sponsors the strong first/third person divide that lies at the heart of the two false accounts of experiential concept learning sketched above. This is the true source of the problem. To deal successfully (...) with it we must reconsider our assumptions about the way in which we learn our concepts of experience, self and other, and the order in which we do so. Specifically, we must recognize the intersubjective character of the learning process and we must abandon the idea that we gain a secure grasp of the self/other dichotomy prior to learning our concepts of experience. Focusing on these issues allows us to understand the asymmetrical nature of such concepts. In order to bring these points into sharp relief, the next section is devoted to reviewing the major features of Brewer’s approach to the very same problem in his contribution to this volume, ‘Emotion and OtherMinds’. Although his proposal makes some moves in the right direction, I argue that he does not go far enough. In particular, in focusing exclusively on demonstrative reference, he fails to challenge crucial aspects of the individualistic model that are responsible for generating the problem. Still, using his work as a springboard, it becomes clear exactly which fundamental assumptions need to be revised if we are to understand the context in which we learn our psychological concepts. (shrink)
This paper discusses Wittgenstein's take on the problem of otherminds. In opposition to certain widespread views that I collect under the heading of the “No Problem Interpretation,” I argue that Wittgenstein does address some problem of otherminds. However, Wittgenstein's problem is not the traditional epistemological problem of otherminds; rather, it is more reminiscent of the issue of intersubjectivity as it emerges in the writings of phenomenologists such as Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, and Heidegger. (...) This is one sense in which Wittgenstein's perspective on otherminds might be called “phenomenological.” Yet there is another sense as well, in that Wittgenstein's positive views on this issue resemble the views defended by phenomenologists. The key to a proper philosophical grasp of intersubjectivity, on both views, lies in rethinking the mind. If we conceive of minds as essentially embodied we can understand how intersubjectivity is possible. (shrink)
John McDowell’s original motivation of disjunctivism occurs in the context of a problem regarding otherminds. Recent commentators have insisted that McDowell’s disjunctivism should be classed as an epistemological disjunctivism about epistemic warrant, and distinguished from the perceptual disjunctivism of Hinton, Snowdon and others. In this paper I investigate the relation between the problem of otherminds and disjunctivism, and raise some questions for this interpretation of McDowell.
How do I know whether there are any minds beside my own? This problem of otherminds in philosophy raises questions which are at the heart of all philosophical investigations--how it is that we know, what is in the mind, and whether we can be certain about any of our beliefs. In this book, Anita Avramides begins with a historical overview of the problem from the Ancient Skeptics to Descartes, Malebranche, Locke, Berkeley, Reid, and Wittgenstein. The second (...) part of the book investigates the views of influential contemporary philosophers such as Strawson, Davidson, Nagel and Searle. (shrink)
Quassim Cassam has recently defended a perceptual model of knowledge of otherminds: one on which we can see and thereby know that another thinks and feels. In the course of defending this model, he addresses issues about our ability to think about otherminds. I argue that his solution to this 'conceptual problem' does not work. A solution to the conceptual problem is necessary if we wish to explain knowledge of otherminds.
The difficulties about otherminds are deep and of central philosophical importance. This text explores attempts to apply Wittgenstein's concept of criteria in explaining how we can know otherminds and their properties. It is shown that the use of criteria for this purpose is misguided.
Scepticism is sometimes expressed about whether there is any interesting problem of otherminds. In this paper I set out a version of the conceptual problem of otherminds which turns on the way in which mental occurrences are presented to the subject and situate it in relation to debates about our knowledge of other people's mental lives. The result is a distinctive problem in the philosophy of mind concerning our relation to other people.
This paper is concerned with the issue of authenticity in Wittgenstein’s philosophy of psychology. In the manuscripts published as Letzte Schriften über die Philosophie der Psychologie – Das Innere und das Äußere, the German term Echtheit is mostly translated as ‘genuineness’. In these manuscripts, Wittgenstein frequently uses the term as referring to a feature of the expression of feeling and emotion: -/- […] I want to say that there is an original genuine expression of pain; that the expression of pain (...) therefore is not equally connected to the pain and to the pretence. (LW II, p. 55) -/- “This weeping gives the impression of being genuine” – so there is such a thing as genuine weeping. […]. (LW II, p. 87) -/- […] Genuineness and falseness are not the only essential characteristics of an expression of feeling. […]. (LW II, p. 90) -/- Wittgenstein contrasts the genuineness of the expressions with the possibility that the expressions are feigned. It seems to me that Wittgenstein is trying to discredit a specific version of the sceptical claim that we do not know otherminds. I will refer to it as the sceptical innuendo. The sceptical innuendo says that every expression of feeling and emotion may be pretended. Wittgenstein’s approach to the issue reflects his later interest in the philosophy of psychology and, in particular, the problem of the ascription of psychological states (P-ascriptions) on the basis of someone else’s expression of feeling or emotion. Thus, the attempt to reject the sceptical innuendo is done mainly by means of conceptual and psychological arguments. Let’s look at this short dialogue between the sceptic and Wittgenstein. The former asks „How do you know that someone else is in a certain psychological state?“ Wittgenstein’s first reply is „I know that he is glad because I see him“. But the sceptic cannot be very happy with this reply. The sceptic’s next question is: „How do you know that he is really glad and he is not pretending?“ Wittgenstein’s response is not a direct refutation but is composed of a number of related reasons. These may be summed up in three arguments: -/- (i) A psychological argument from the very nature of the expressions. The expressions are meant to be natural symptoms of someone else’s psychological state (P-state). -/- (ii) A conceptual argument about the nature of pretence. It claims that pretence is a psychological property which is rightly ascribed when an observer has evidence for it. -/- (iii) A psychological argument from genuineness. It claims that we are committed to accept people’s expressions of feeling and emotion as genuine. (shrink)
While there is a great diversity of treatments of otherminds and inter-subjectivity within both analytic and continental philosophy, this article specifies some of the core structural differences between these treatments. Although there is no canonical account of the problem of otherminds that can be baldly stated and that is exhaustive of both traditions, the problem(s) of otherminds can be loosely defined in family resemblances terms. It seems to have: (1) an epistemological (...) dimension (How do we know that others exist? Can we justifiably claim to know that they do?); (2) an ontological dimension that incorporates issues having to do with personal identity (What is the structure of our world such that inter-subjectivity is possible? What are the fundamental aspects of our relations to others? How do they impact upon our self-identity?); and (3) A conceptual dimension in that it depends on one's answer to the question what is a mind (How does the mind – or the concept of 'mind'– relate to the brain, the body and the world?). While these three issues are co-imbricated, I will claim that analytic engagements with the problem of otherminds focus on (1), whereas continental philosophers focus far more on (2). In addition, this article will also point to various other downstream consequences of this, including the preoccupation with embodiment and forms of expressivism that feature heavily in various forms of continental philosophy, and which generally aim to ground our relations with others in a pre-reflective manner of inhabiting the world that is said to be the condition of reflection and knowledge. (shrink)
Otherminds and their place in the Hume-literature -- A modern approach -- Scepticism versus naturalism -- The vulgar and the philosopher -- Relative ideas -- Concepts of the real -- Intuition and common sense -- Epistemic responsibility -- Degeneration of reason -- Just philosophy -- Conceiving minds -- Abstraction -- Argument from analogy -- Sympathy -- Limitations -- Generality -- Hume's concept of mind -- The world and the other -- Habit and intersubjective responsiveness -- (...) Belief and education -- Mental facts -- Signs of mind and world -- The belief-grounding function of sympathy -- Corrigibility of belief -- Cognitive architecture. (shrink)
This article describes some of the main arguments for the existence of otherminds, and intersubjectivity more generally, that depend upon a transcendental justification. This means that our focus will be largely on ‘continental’ philosophy, not only because of the abiding interest in this tradition in thematising intersubjectivity, but also because transcendental reasoning is close to ubiquitous in continental philosophy. Neither point holds for analytic philosophy. As such, this essay will introduce some of the important contributions of Edmund (...) Husserl, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Karl-Otto Apel, all of whom use transcendental reasoning as a key part of their analyses of intersubjectivity, and we also consider the work of Peter Strawson who does likewise in the analytic tradition. (shrink)
The everyday capacity to understand the mind, or 'mindreading', plays an enormous role in our ordinary lives. Shaun Nichols and Stephen Stich provide a detailed and integrated account of the intricate web of mental components underlying this fascinating and multifarious skill. The imagination, they argue, is essential to understanding others, and there are special cognitive mechanisms for understanding oneself. The account that emerges has broad implications for longstanding philosophical debates over the status of folk psychology. Mindreading is another trailblazing volume (...) in the prestigious interdisciplinary Oxford Cognitive Science series. (shrink)
In this paper I discuss Searle's claim that the computational properties of a system could never cause a system to be conscious. In the first section of the paper I argue that Searle is correct that, even if a system both behaves in a way that is characteristic of conscious agents (like ourselves) and has a computational structure similar to those agents, one cannot be certain that that system is conscious. On the other hand, I suggest that Searle's intuition (...) that it is “empirically absurd” that such a system could be conscious is unfounded. In the second section I show that Searle's attempt to show that a system's computational states could not possibly cause it to be conscious is based upon an erroneous distinction between computational and physical properties. On the basis of these two arguments, I conclude that, supposing that the behavior of conscious agents can be explained in terms of their computational properties, we have good reason to suppose that a system having computational properties similar to such agents is also conscious. (shrink)
A compelling new approach to the problem that has haunted twentieth century philosophy in both its analytical and continental shapes. No other book addresses as thoroughly the parallels between Wittgenstein and leading Continental philosophers such as Levinas, Husserl, and Heidegger.
One of the goals of physiologists who study the detailed physical, chemical,and neurological mechanisms operating within the human body is to understand the intricate causal processes which underlie human abilities and activities. It is doubtless premature to predict that they will eventually be able to explain the behaviour of a particular human being as we might now explain the behaviour of a pendulum clock or even the invisible changes occurring within the hardware of a modern electronic computer. Nonetheless, it seems (...) fair to say that hovering in the background of investigations into human physiology is the promise or threat, depending upon how one looks at the matter that human beings are complete physical-chemical systems and that all events taking place within their bodies and all movements of their bodies could be accounted for by physical causes if we but knew enough. I am not concerned at the moment with whether or not this ’mechanistic’ hypothesis is true, assuming that it is clear enough to be intelligible, nor with whether or not we could ever know that it is true. I wish to consider the somewhat more accessible yet equally important question whether our coming to believe that the hypothesis is true would warrant our relinquishing our conception of ourselves as beings who are capable of acting for reasons to achieve ends of our own choosing. I use the word ’warrant’ to indicate that I will not be discussing the possibility that believing the mechanistic hypothesis might lead us, as a matter of psychological fact, to think of human beings as mere automata, as objects whose movements are to be explained only by causes rather than by reasons, as are the actions of a personal subject. I intend to consider only whether the acceptance of mechanism would in fact justify such a change in conception. (shrink)
I May, at a gathering, notice that Peter is sitting very stiffly in his chair. I say to myself, “Perhaps he has a pain. Yes, I think he has some sort of pain.” I have inferred a feeling of some sort from bodily behavior. It is not an impossible thing to do, to infer sometimes a feeling from bodily behavior. But it is a puzzling thing to do, at least in a philosophieal sense. Because we ordinarily hold that we cannot (...) “observe” the feelings of another, that we can never directly confront these feelings, that feelings as actually felt are private to each of us. There may be interesting ways of challenging this sort of remark—for instance, by way of telepathy. But there is an advantage in puzzling over the kind of inference indicated, without the challenge of telepathy or similar abilities. (shrink)
Psychologists distinguish between intentional systems which have beliefs and those which are also able to attribute beliefs to others. The ability to do the latter is called having a `theory of mind', and many cognitive ethologists are hoping to find evidence for this ability in animal behaviour. I argue that Dennett's theory entails that any intentional system that interacts with another intentional system (such as vervet monkeys and chess-playing computers) has a theory of mind, which would make the distinction all (...) but meaningless. This entailment should not be accepted; instead, Dennett's position that intentional behaviour is best predictable via the intentional stance should be rejected in favour of a pluralistic view of behaviour prediction. I introduce an additional method which humans often use to predict intentional and non-intentional behaviour, which could be called the inductive stance. (shrink)
The institution of book reviews, flawed though it may be, still performs a crucial service of resource enhancement for a discipline, funneling informed attention to at least some of the best among a superfluity of publications. During the last quarter century, Thomas Nagel's book reviews and critical essays have played a major role, shaping opinion, and thereby shaping the field. Now he has gathered his favorites in a collection, ten in philosophy of mind, and a dozen in ethics and political (...) philosophy, supplemented by the view from today: brief reactions to the individual pieces, and a fascinating introduction, part intellectual autobiography and part reflection on the state of the discipline. The otherminds of the title are those of Freud (and Richard Wollheim and Adolf Grünbaum), Wittgenstein (and David Pears), Noam Chomsky, Jerry Fodor, David Armstrong, myself, Brian O'Shaughnessy and John Searle in the philosophy of mind, and Aristotle (and John Cooper), John Rawls, Robert Nozick, Richard Hare, Bernard Williams, Thomas Schelling, Ronald Dworkin, Alasdair MacIntyre, and Leszek Kolakowski in ethics and political philosophy. Do not be misled by the dust jacket. The picture of brains is as inappropriate as it is ugly; Nagel's interest in the mind has always been more driven by his interest in the mind's role in ethics, than by a fascination with neuroscience. He is a "moral psychologist," not a "cognitive scientist.". (shrink)
The problem of otherminds has a distinguished philosophical history stretching back more than two hundred years. Taken at face value, it is an epistemological question: it concerns how we can have knowledge of, or at least justified belief in, the existence of mindsother than our own. In recent decades, philosophers, psychologists, neuroscientists, anthropologists and primatologists have debated a related question: how we actually go about attributing mental states to others (regardless of whether we ever (...) achieve knowledge or rational justification in this domain). Until the mid-nineties, the latter debate – which sometimes goes under the name of the “mindreading” debate – was characterized by a fairly clear-cut opposition between two theoretical outlooks: “theory-theory” (TT) and “simulation theory” (ST). Theory-theorists typically argued that we attribute mental states to others on the basis of a “theory of mind” that is either constructed in early infancy and subsequently revised and modified (Gopnik 1996), or else is the result of maturation of innate mindreading “modules” (Baron-Cohen 1995). Simulation theorists, on the other hand, held that it is by creating simulated “pretend states” in ourselves that we understand the mental states of others (Goldman 1995; Gordon 1995). Recently, a number of theorists have suggested another explanation of our understanding of others as having mental states – an explanation that, at least prima facie, seems very different from the TT and ST paradigms. Drawing on the approach to otherminds defended by classical phenomenologists such as Max Scheler (1954: 238-64) and Maurice Merleau-Ponty (2002: 214-16, 403-25), recent participants in the mindreading debate have maintained that we often see, or perceive in some other modality, that another is in the grip of a particular emotion, say. In other words, the processes involved in our detection of others’ emotions and other mental states are often perceptual processes that are not supplemented by any extra-perceptual cognitive mechanisms (e.g., inferential processes, conscious simulation routines, or the like).. (shrink)
The problem of otherminds has a distinguished philosophical history stretching back more than two hundred years. Taken at face value, it is an epistemological question: it concerns how we can have knowledge of, or at least justified belief in, the existence of mindsother than our own. In recent decades, philosophers, psychologists, neuroscientists, anthropologists and primatologists have debated a related question: how we actually go about attributing mental states to others (regardless of whether we ever (...) achieve knowledge or rational justification in this domain). Until the mid-nineties, the latter debate – which sometimes goes under the name of the “mindreading” debate – was characterized by a fairly clear-cut opposition between two theoretical outlooks: “theory-theory” (TT) and “simulation theory” (ST). Theory-theorists typically argued that we attribute mental states to others on the basis of a “theory of mind” that is either constructed in early infancy and subsequently revised and modified (Gopnik 1996), or else is the result of maturation of innate mindreading “modules” (Baron-Cohen 1995). (shrink)
One reason why the problem of otherminds keeps cropping up in modern philosophy is that we seem to have conflicting intuitions about our access to the mental lives of others. On the one hand, we are inclined to think that it is wrong to claim, like Cartesian dualists must, that the minds of others are essentially inaccessible to direct experience. But on the other hand we feel that it is equally wrong to claim, like the (...) behaviorists, that the mental lives of others are completely accessible to an outside spectator. This paper attempts to address the problem of the accessibility of otherminds while staying faithful to both these intuitions. Central to this undertaking is the idea that we express our mental lives in our bodily behavior. With a firm grasp of the notion of expression, as it is developed in the writings of Wittgenstein and Levinas, we can understand how otherminds can be directly perceivable and yet retain a certain inaccessibility. The key is to emphasize the difference between the expressive appearance of a human being and the way an object appears in perception. (shrink)
Explaining the mind by building machines with minds runs into the other-minds problem: How can we tell whether any body other than our own has a mind when the only way to know is by being the other body? In practice we all use some form of Turing Test: If it can do everything a body with a mind can do such that we can't tell them apart, we have no basis for doubting it has (...) a mind. But what is "everything" a body with a mind can do? Turing's original "pen-pal" version (the TT) only tested linguistic capacity, but Searle has shown that a mindless symbol-manipulator could pass the TT undetected. The Total Turing Test (TTT) calls for all of our linguistic and robotic capacities; immune to Searle's argument, it suggests how to ground a symbol manipulating system in the capacity to pick out the objects its symbols refer to. No Turing Test, however, can guarantee that a body has a mind. Worse, nothing in the explanation of its successful performance requires a model to have a mind at all. Minds are hence very different from the unobservables of physics (e.g., superstrings); and Turing Testing, though essential for machine-modeling the mind, can really only yield an explanation of the body. (shrink)