Inferentialism and our knowledge of others’ minds

Philosophical Studies 172 (6):1435-1454 (2015)
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Abstract

Our knowledge of each others’ mental features is sometimes epistemically basic or non-inferential. The alternative to this claim is Inferentialism, the view that such knowledge is always epistemically inferential. Here, I argue that Inferentialism is not plausible. My argument takes the form of an inference to the best explanation. Given the nature of the task involved in recognizing what mental features others have on particular occasions, and our capacity to perform that task, we should not expect always to find good inferential explanations of our knowledge. This conclusion is an epistemological one. The motivation for it is independent of metaphysical concerns about functionalism or about the best way to model the cognitive architecture which produces our knowledge of others’ minds. Given this it is compatible both with the truth of functionalism and theory–theory construed as a cognitive model

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William E. S. McNeill
University of Southampton

Citations of this work

Other minds are neither seen nor inferred.Mason Westfall - 2020 - Synthese 198 (12):11977-11997.
Seeing What You Want.William E. S. McNeill - 2015 - Consciousness and Cognition 36:554-564.
Perception, Evidence, and our Expressive Knowledge of Others' Minds.Anil Gomes - 2019 - In Matthew Parrott & Anita Avramides (eds.), Knowing Other Minds. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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References found in this work

The Structure of Empirical Knowledge.Laurence BonJour - 1985 - Cambridge, MA, USA: Harvard University Press.
Mental Events.Donald Davidson - 1970 - In L. Foster & J. W. Swanson (eds.), Experience and Theory. Clarendon Press. pp. 207-224.
Psychophysical and theoretical identifications.David K. Lewis - 1972 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 50 (3):249-258.

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