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)
An examination of the controversial "theory of mind" hypothesis, which states that children with autism are unable to comprehend other people's mental states. The theory relates to the most fundamental questions of normal development as well as to autism i.
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.
We find it natural to say that creatures with minds can be understood ‘from the inside’. The paper explores what could be meant by this attractive but, on reflection, somewhat mysterious idea. It suggests that it may find a hospitable placement, which makes its content and appeal clearer, in one version of the so-called ‘simulation theory’ approach to grasp of psychological concepts. Simulation theory suggests that ability to use imagination in rethinking others’ thoughts and in recreating their trains of (...) reasoning is central to our grasp and use of psychological concepts.On this view to think of another’s mind is not to think of some intricate quasi-mechanical assemblage of items in the other’s head which causally explain her behavior. If this is all that the ‘inside’ of another person, i.e. her mind, were like, then there would be no question of anything being ‘from’ it. The simulation view, however, emphasizes that thoughts essentially have content and that identifying another’s thought, and working out its possible effects, involves identifying its content and oneself entertaining thoughts with the same content.So, on this approach, to think of another’s mind is to think of a complex but rationally unified set of thoughts, a set which is conceived as had by one subject but where the contents and relations can be grasped and appreciated by another. Some of these thoughts will be indexical and the whole can thus be said to constitute the subject’s point of view on the world, both literally and metaphorically. Grasping this point of view is, the paper suggests, what is meant by speaking of ‘understanding from the inside’. (shrink)
Experiences justify beliefs about our environment. Sometimes the justification is immediate: seeing a red light immediately justifies believing there is a red light. Other times the justification is mediate: seeing a red light justifies believing one should brake in a way that is mediated by background knowledge of traffic signals. How does this distinction map onto the distinction between what is and what isn't part of the content of experience? Epistemic egalitarians think that experiences immediately justify whatever is part (...) of their content. Epistemic elitists deny this and think that there is some further constraint the contents of experience must satisfy to be immediately justified. Here I defend epistemic elitism, propose a phenomenological account of what the further constraint is, and explore the resulting view's consequences for our knowledge of otherminds, and in particular for perceptual theories of this knowledge. (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)
Although enactive approaches to cognition vary in terms of their character and scope, all endorse several core claims. The first is that cognition is tied to action. The second is that cognition is composed of more than just in-the-head processes; cognitive activities are externalized via features of our embodiment and in our ecological dealings with the people and things around us. I appeal to these two enactive claims to consider a view called “direct social perception” : the idea that we (...) can sometimes perceive features of otherminds directly in the character of their embodiment and environmental interactions. I argue that if DSP is true, we can probably also perceive certain features of mental disorders as well. I draw upon the developmental psychologist Daniel Stern’s notion of “forms of vitality”—largely overlooked in these debates—to develop this idea, and I use autism as a case study. I argue further that an enactive approach to DSP can clarify some ways we play a regulative role in shaping the temporal and phenomenal character of the disorder in question, and it may therefore have practical significance for both the clinical and therapeutic encounter. (shrink)
How do we know about otherminds on the basis of perception? The two most common answers to this question are that we literally perceive others’ mental states, or that we infer their mental states on the basis of perceiving something else. In this paper, I argue for a different answer. On my view, we don’t perceive mental states, and yet perceptual experiences often immediately justify mental state attributions. In a slogan: otherminds are neither seen (...) nor inferred. I argue that this view offers the best explanation of our deeply equivocal intuitions about perception-based mental state attributions, and also holds substantial interest for the epistemology of perception more generally. (shrink)
One of the most intriguing of philosophical puzzles concerns otherminds. How do you know there are any? Yes, you're surrounded by living organisms that look and behave much as you do. They even say they have minds. But do they? Perhaps other humans are mindless zombies: like you on the outside, but lacking any inner conscious life, including emotions, thoughts, experiences and even pain. What grounds do you possess for supposing that other humans aren't (...) zombies? Perhaps less than you think. Anita Avramides tackles this fascinating question. (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)
I distinguish three kinds of otherminds problems—conceptual, epistemological and empirical. I argue that while Merleau-Ponty believes embodiment helps with tackling the conceptual and epistemological problems, he suggests that it is of no clear use in solving the empirical problem. I sketch some considerations that could lend support to Merleau-Ponty’s claims about the conceptual and epistemological problems, without claiming that these are conclusive. I then proceed to argue that Merleau-Ponty’s take on the empirical problem is essentially correct.
Why do children with autism have such trouble developing normal social understanding of other people's feelings? This new edition updates the field by linking autism research to the newest methods for studying the brain.
This book comprises 26 exciting chapters by internationally renowned scholars, addressing the central psychological proces separating humans from other animals: the ability to imagine the thoughts and feelings of othersm and to reflect on the contents of our own minds - a "theory of mind" (ToM).
In this paper I distinguish two ways of raising a sceptical problem of others' minds: via a problem concerning the possibility of error or via a problem concerning sources of knowledge. I give some reason to think that the second problem raises a more interesting problem in accounting for our knowledge of others’ minds and consider proposed solutions to the problem.
John Harris discusses the problem of otherminds, not as it relates to other human minds, but rather as it relates to artificial intelligences. He also discusses what might be called bilateral mind-reading: humans trying to read the minds of artificial intelligences and artificial intelligences trying to read the minds of humans. Lastly, Harris discusses whether super intelligent AI – if it could be created – should be afforded moral consideration, and also how we (...) might convince super intelligent AI that we ourselves should be treated with moral consideration. In this commentary, I discuss these issues brought up by Harris. I focus specifically on robots (rather than AI in general), and I set aside future super intelligent AI to instead focus on more limited forms of AI. I argue that the human tendency to attribute minds even to robots with very limited AI and whether such robots should be given moral consideration are more pressing issues than those that Harris discusses, even though I certainly agree with Harris that the potential for super intelligent AI is a fascinating topic to speculate about. (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.
This chapter suggests that, when considering the philosophical problem of otherminds, we distinguish between "thick" and "thin" versions of it. While traditional approaches take the problem to be a thick one, more recent work can be seen as addressing only a thin variant. Dretske, while acknowledging the thick problem, proposes a perceptual model of our knowledge of otherminds which addresses only the thin version. The chapter proposes that, in the place of the thick problem, (...) we consider the quality of our interactions with others. Following Wittgenstein, it suggests that where individuals share a nature their interactions exhibit a quality that it calls "depth." Where that nature is not, or is only partially, shared, there one might expect to find the quality of the interaction between persons disturbed. The chapter suggests that this disturbance might explain the impaired quality of interaction between autistic and non-autistic individuals. (shrink)
Can we understand otherminds ‘from the inside’? What would this mean? There is an attraction which many have felt in the idea that creatures with minds, people , invite a kind of understanding which inanimate objects such as rocks, plants and machines, do not invite and that it is appropriate to seek to understand them ‘from the inside’. What I hope to do in this paper is to introduce and defend one version of the so-called ‘simulation’ (...) approach to our grasp and use of psychological concepts, a version which gives central importance to the idea of shared rationality, and in so doing to tease out and defend one strand in the complex of ideas which finds expression in this mysterious phrase. (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)
What exactly do we do when we try to make sense of other people e.g. by ascribing mental states like beliefs and desires to them? After a short criticism of Theory-Theory, Interaction Theory and the Narrative Theory of understanding others as well as an extended criticism of the Simulation Theory in Goldman's recent version (2006), we suggest an alternative approach: the Person Model Theory . Person models are the basis for our ability to register and evaluate persons having mental (...) as well as physical properties. We argue that there are two kinds of person models, nonconceptual person schemata and conceptual person images , and both types of models can be developed for individuals as well as for groups. (shrink)
Can belief in God be rationally justified? Reviewing in detail traditional and modern arguments for and against the existence of God, Professor Plantinga concludes that they must all be judged unsuccessful. He then turns to the related philosophical problem of the existence of otherminds, and defends the so-called analogical argument against current criticisms. He goes on to show, however, that although this argument affords us the best reasons we have for belief in otherminds, it (...) finally succumbs to the same malady that afflicts the teleological argument of God. (shrink)
The processes underwriting the acquisition of culture remain unclear. How are shared habits, norms, and expectations learned and maintained with precision and reliability across large-scale sociocultural ensembles? Is there a unifying account of the mechanisms involved in the acquisition of culture? Notions such as “shared expectations,” the “selective patterning of attention and behaviour,” “cultural evolution,” “cultural inheritance,” and “implicit learning” are the main candidates to underpin a unifying account of cognition and the acquisition of culture; however, their interactions require greater (...) specification and clarification. In this article, we integrate these candidates using the variational approach to human cognition and culture in theoretical neuroscience. We describe the construction by humans of social niches that afford epistemic resources called cultural affordances. We argue that human agents learn the shared habits, norms, and expectations of their culture through immersive participation in patterned cultural practices that selectively pattern attention and behaviour. We call this process “thinking through otherminds” – in effect, the process of inferring other agents’ expectations about the world and how to behave in social context. We argue that for humans, information from and about other people's expectations constitutes the primary domain of statistical regularities that humans leverage to predict and organize behaviour. The integrative model we offer has implications that can advance theories of cognition, enculturation, adaptation, and psychopathology. Crucially, this formal treatment seeks to resolve key debates in current cognitive science, such as the distinction between internalist and externalist accounts of theory of mind abilities and the more fundamental distinction between dynamical and representational accounts of enactivism. (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.
In this article, we propose a pluralistic approach to the explanation of social understanding that integrates literature from social psychology with the theory of mind debate. Social understanding in everyday life is achieved in various ways. As a rule of thumb we propose that individuals make use of whatever procedure is cognitively least demanding to them in a given context. Aside from theory and simulation, associations of behaviors with familiar agents play a crucial role in social understanding. This role has (...) been neglected so far. We illustrate the roles of fluency and associations in social understanding in false belief tasks. (shrink)
Over the past twenty-five years, Thomas Nagel has played a major role in the philosophico-biological debate on subjectivity and consciousness. This extensive collection of published essays and reviews offers Nagel's opinionated views on the philosophy of mind, epistemology, and political philosophy, as well as on fellow philosophers like Freud, Wittgenstein, Rawls, Dennet, Chomsky, Searle, Nozick, Dworkin, and MacIntyre.
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)
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)
In this paper I defend the claim that testimony can serve as a basic source of knowledge of other people’s mental lives against the objection that testimonial knowledge presupposes knowledge of other people’s mental lives and therefore can’t be used to explain it.
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)
The neurodiversity movement has called for a rethinking of autistic mindedness. It rejects the commonplace tendency to theorize autism by foregrounding a set of deficiencies in behavioural, cognitive, and affective areas. Instead, the idea is, our conception of autistic mindedness ought to foreground that autistic persons, often in virtue of their autism, experience the world in manners that can be immensely meaningful to themselves and to human society at large. In this paper I presuppose that the idea of neurodiversity is (...) worth taking seriously and I explore to what extent it can be accommodated within a 4E cognition framework by scrutinizing two 4E approaches to autistic mindedness: Shaun Gallagher's interactionism (2004; 2008) and Hanne De Jaegher's autopoietic enactivism (2013). Although these accounts share a number of theoretical commitments, they are also marked by different points of emphasis. Though seemingly innocuous, I show that these differences end up having a significant impact on how autistic mindedness is brought in view and how, correspondingly, the idea of neurodiversity can get a foothold. (shrink)
C. Lloyd Morgan is mostly known for Morgan’s canon, still a popular and frequently quoted principle in comparative psychology and ethology. There has been a fair amount of debate on the canon’s interpretation, function, and value regarding the research on animal minds, usually referring to it as an isolated principle. In this paper we rather shed light on Morgan’s overall scientific program and his vision for comparative psychology. We argue that within his program Morgan identified crucial conceptual, ontological, and (...) methodical issues, that are still fundamental to the current research on animal minds. This also highlights a new aspect of his role as one of the “founding fathers” of modern comparative psychology. In order to understand Morgan’s program, we briefly outline the historical context in which he began his work on a science of comparative psychology. We will then emphasize to what extent his taxonomy of psychological capacities, the development of his metaphysics for a comparative psychology, and his newly introduced interdisciplinary procedures justify Morgan’s distinctive approach to still rather sensitive issues. In doing so, we aim to provide a more comprehensive picture of Morgan’s methodological signature and we contend that a proper understanding of his canon can only be gained by taking it as part of this program. We finally understand his most renown considerations as part of his struggle to ascertain the limits and possibilities of the discipline he contributed to set up, and thus emphasize the need to keep the discussion going, notably on the accessibility of otherminds than one’s own and on the limits of one’s research perspectives. (shrink)
We ordinarily speak of being able to see that there are people on the bus, Students in the class, And children playing in the street. If human beings are understood to be conscious entities, Then one of our ways of knowing that there are other conscious entities in the world besides ourselves is by seeing that there are. We also speak of seeing that he is angry, She is depressed, And so on. It is argued that this is, Indeed, (...) One way of knowing that there are otherminds (and, Hence, That the problem of otherminds is not a special epistemological problem). What helps to obscure this fact is the confusion between visibility and knowability--The confusion between seeing his pain and seeing that he is in pain. (shrink)
It is sometimes claimed that we perceive people’s mental states in their expressive features. This paper clarifies the claim by contrasting two possible readings, depending on whether expression is conceived relationally or non-relationally. A crucial difference between both readings is that only a non-relational conception of expression ensures direct access to otherminds. The paper offers an argument for a non-relational conception of expression, and therefore for the view that we directly perceive people’s mental states in their expressive (...) features. (shrink)
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.
Why are we conscious? What does consciousness enable us to do that cannot be done by zombies in the dark? This paper argues that introspective consciousness probably co-evolved as a "spandrel" along with our more useful ability to represent the mental states of other people. The first part of the paper defines and motivates a conception of consciousness as a kind of "double vision" – the perception of how things seem to us as well as what they are – (...) along lines recently explored by Peter Carruthers. The second part explains the basic socioepistemic function of consciousness and suggests an evolutionary pathway to this cognitive capacity that begins with predators and prey. The third part discusses the relevance of these considerations to the traditional problem of otherminds. (shrink)