The problem of other minds 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 minds other 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)
Proponents of the so-called “interactive turn in social cognition research” maintain that mainstream research on social cognition has been fundamentally flawed by its neglect of social interaction, and that a new paradigm is needed in order to redress this shortcoming. We argue that proponents of the interactive turn (“interactionists”) have failed to properly substantiate their criticisms of existing research on social cognition. Although it is sometimes unclear precisely what these criticisms of existing theories are supposed to target, we sketch two (...) possibilities: interactionists can either accept the primary explanandum addressed by mainstream social cognition research—namely mindreading—and claim that interactionism contributes some hitherto neglected but necessary component of a successful explanans, or they can argue that mainstream research has focused on a misconceived explanandum. We argue that interactionist claims of both sorts are problematic. (shrink)
One reason why the problem of other minds 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 other minds 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 other minds 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)
In recent years, a number of approaches to social cognition research have emerged that highlight the importance of embodied interaction for social cognition (Reddy, How infants know minds, 2008; Gallagher, J Conscious Stud 8:83–108, 2001; Fuchs and Jaegher, Phenom Cogn Sci 8:465–486, 2009; Hutto, in Seemans (ed.) Joint attention: new developments in psychology, philosophy of mind and social neuroscience, 2012). Proponents of such ‘interactionist’ approaches emphasize the importance of embodied responses that are engaged in online social interaction, and which, according (...) to interactionists, present an alternative to mindreading as a source of social understanding. We agree that it is important to take embodied interaction seriously, but do not agree that this presents a fundamental challenge to mainstream mindreading approaches. Drawing upon an analogy between embodied interaction and the exercise of expert skills, we advocate a hierarchical view which claims that embodied social responses generally operate in close conjunction with higher-level cognitive processes that play a coordinative role, and which are often sensitive to mental states. Thus, investigation of embodied responses should inform rather than conflict with research on mindreading. (shrink)
It is a study of the phenomenological philosophies of Husserl and Heidegger. Through a critical discussion including practically all previously published English and German literature on the subject, the aim is to present a thorough and evenhanded account of the relation between the two. The book provides a detailed presentation of their respective projects and methods, and examines several of their key phenomenological analyses, centering on the phenomenon of being-in-the-world. It offers new perspectives on Husserlian and Heideggerian phenomenology, e.g. concerning (...) the importance of Husserl's phenomenology of the body, the relationship between the Husserlian concept of "constitution" and Heidegger's notion of "transcendence", as well as in its argument that "being" designates the central phenomenon for both phenomenologists. Though the study sacrifices nothing in terms of argumentative rigor or interpretative detail, it is written in such a way as to be accessible and rewarding to non-specialists and specialists alike. (shrink)
According to ‘purification interpretations’, the point of the epoché is to purify our ordinary experience of certain assumptions inherent in it. In this paper, I argue that purification interpretations are wrong. Ordinary experience is just fine as it is, and phenomenology has no intention of correcting or purifying it. To understand the epoché, we must keep the reflective nature of phenomenology firmly in mind. When we do phenomenology, we occupy two distinct roles, which come with very different responsibilities. As reflecting (...) phenomenologists, we must deactivate all our beliefs about the world. But the only point of this is to be able to describe the experiences we have as experiencing subjects, including all those beliefs about the world that may be part and parcel of those experiences. I end by suggesting that there is a useful analogy between phenomenological reflection and the familiar practice of quoting. (shrink)
Michael Dummett has claimed that the only way to establish communication between the analytic and Continental schools of philosophy is to go back to their point of divergence in Frege and the early Husserl. In this paper, I try to show that Dummett's claim is false. I examine in detail the discussions at the infamous 1958 Royaumont Colloquium on analytic philosophy. Many ? including Dummett ? believe that these discussions underscore the futility of attempting to bridge the gap between Continental (...) and analytical philosophies in anything like their current shapes. I argue, however, that a close study of the Royaumont proceedings rather reveals how close some of the analytical speakers were to some of their Continental listeners. (shrink)
This article discusses Jaakko Hintikka's interpretation of the aims and method of Husserl's phenomenology. I argue that Hintikka misrepresents Husserl's phenomenology on certain crucial points. More specifically, Hintikka misconstrues Husserl's notion of "immediate experience" and consequently fails to grasp the functions of the central methodological tools known as the "epoché" and the "phenomenological reduction." The result is that the conception of phenomenology he attributes to Husserl is very far from realizing the philosophical potential of Husserl's position. Hence if we want (...) a fruitful rapprochement between analytical philosophy and Continental phenomenology of the kind that is Hintikka's ultimate aim, then Hintikka's account of Husserl needs correcting on a number of crucial points. (shrink)
This paper discusses Wittgenstein's take on the problem of other minds. 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 other minds. However, Wittgenstein's problem is not the traditional epistemological problem of other minds; 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 other minds 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)
In recent publications, Michael Tye and Alva Noë have claimed that there is a sense in which a tilted plate looks round and another sense in which it looks elliptical. This paper argues that their proposal faces decisive objections. On Tye and Noë's account of ordinary, veridical perception, appearances are in constant conflict. As a characterization of ordinary visual experience, this cannot be correct. I examine various responses to this criticism, and conclude that they all fail. I then argue that (...) Noë's account has the further, unintended and undesirable consequence of promoting a version of the sense-datum theory. (shrink)
The unobservability thesis states that the mental states of other people are unobservable. Both defenders and critics of UT seem to assume that UT has important implications for the mindreading debate. Roughly, the former argue that because UT is true, mindreaders need to infer the mental states of others, while the latter maintain that the falsity of UT makes mindreading inferences redundant. I argue, however, that it is unclear what ‘unobservability’ means in this context. I outline two possible lines of (...) interpretation of UT, and argue that on one of these, UT has no obvious implications for the mindreading debate. On the other line of interpretation, UT may matter to the mindreading debate, in particular if we think of it as a thesis about the possible contents of perceptual experience. The upshot is that those who believe UT has implications for the mindreading debate need to be more specific about how they understand the thesis. (shrink)
Claude Romano and Andrea Staiti have recently discussed Husserl’s account of perception in relation to debates in current analytic philosophy between so-called “conjunctivists” and “disjunctivists”. Romano and Staiti offer strikingly different accounts of the nature of illusion and hallucination, and opposing readings of Husserl. Romano thinks hallucinations and illusions are fleeting, fragile phenomena, while Staiti claims they are inherently retrospective phenomena. Romano reads Husserl as being committed to a form of conjunctivism that Romano rejects in favour of a version of (...) disjunctivism. Staiti, by contrast, claims that, from a Husserlian viewpoint, conjunctivism and disjunctivism are equally untenable. I suggest that both Romano and Staiti offer implausible accounts of illusions and hallucinations, and deliver premature verdicts on Husserl in relation to the analytic debates on perception. (shrink)
We resist Schilbach et al.’s characterization of the “social perception” approach to social cognition as a “spectator theory” of other minds. We show how the social perception view acknowledges the crucial role interaction plays in enabling social understanding. We also highlight a dilemma Schilbach et al. face in attempting to distinguish their second person approach from the social perception view.
In various publications, Stanley Cavell and Stanley Rosen have emphasized the philosophical importance of what they both call the ordinary. They both contrast their recovery of the ordinary with traditional philosophy, including the phenomenological philosophy of Edmund Husserl. In this paper, I address Rosen’s claims in particular. I argue that Rosen turns the real situation on its head. Contra Rosen, it is not the case that the employment of Husserl’s epoché distorts the authentic voice of the ordinary—a voice that is (...) clearly audible only from within everyday life. For (pace both Cavell and Rosen) there is no single voice of the ordinary: There are many such voices, not all of which are to be relied upon. Therefore, if we want to achieve an adequate grasp of ordinary experience, and Rosen does want this, we precisely need the epoché to curtail the misleading messages of certain other voices of the ordinary. Moreover, and somewhat surprisingly, this positive evaluation of the Husserlian epoché finds support in Heidegger’s writings from the twenties. I argue that Heidegger, too, believed that the epoché was an indispensable tool for the philosophical attempt to capture ordinary experience. (shrink)
Since the publication of the Philosophical Investigations in 1953, Wittgenstein''s later philosophy of mind has been the subject of numerous books and articles. Although most commentators agree that Wittgenstein was neither a behaviorist nor a Cartesian dualist, many continue to ascribe to him a position that strongly resembles one of the alternatives. In contrast, this paper argues that Wittgenstein was strongly opposed to behaviorism and Cartesianism, and that he was concerned to show that these positions implicitly share a problematic assumption. (...) This assumption is a seemingly innocent idea that subjectivity, or mind, is some kind of object or thing. The paper provides a detailed survey of Wittgenstein''s critique of Cartesianism and behaviorism, as well as an outline of Wittgenstein''s alternative account of subjectivity. (shrink)
This chapter develops a perceptual solution to the epistemological problem of other minds, relying on central ideas from Maurice Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology. The Merleau-Pontian account is contrasted with another attempted perceptual solution to the other minds problem, and it is argued that only the former meets the phenomenologists' desideratum of providing an alternative to inferential solutions. The chapter also provides responses to various objections to the perceptual solution, including a pair of objections recently put forward by Alec Hyslop.
I distinguish three kinds of other minds 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.
This paper examines Heidegger's critique of Husserl in its earliest extant formulation, viz. the lecture courses Ontologie from 1923 and Einführung in die phänomenologische Forschung from 1923/4. Commentators frequently ignore these lectures, but I try to show that a study of them can reveal both the extent to which Heidegger remains committed to phenomenological research in something like its Husserlian form, and when and why Heidegger must part with Husserl. More specifically, I claim that Heidegger rightly criticizes Husserl's account of (...) 'equipmental objects', and that he is especially unsatisfied with the terminology in which Husserl presents his phenomenological analyses, not only of 'equipment', but of other types of entities as well. However, it will also emerge that Heidegger's own phenomenological work presupposes the performance of what Husserl calls the 'epoch ', the method of 'bracketing' natural knowledge. In this way, Heidegger's sometimes very severe critique must be understood as an internal critique. (shrink)
Using the later Levinas as a point of departure, this article tries to provide an account of the ethics of Wittgenstein's Tractatus . Although there has not been written much on this topic, there seems to be an increasing awareness among philosophers that there are interesting points of convergence between Levinas and the early Wittgenstein. In contrast to most (if not all) other accounts of the relation, however, this article argues that the truly significant convergence emerges only when one abandons (...) the received interpretation of the early Wittgenstein, and instead opts for something more akin to the new Wittgenstein interpretation introduced by Cora Diamond and James Conant, among others. On the received interpretation, Wittgenstein places ethics in a realm of ineffable being and truth, and thus remains within what Levinas calls ontology. But on Conant's and Diamond's reading of Wittgenstein, there really are no profound ethical truths that we cannot state, but only show; all the sentences of the Tractatus that appear to claim otherwise are ultimately completely nonsensical. This article argues that the Tractatus has an ethical point in a quite Levinasian sense, precisely because of the way it unveils its sentences as utterly nonsensical; for this can be seen as a Wittgensteinian attempt to unsay the said, in order to let the saying itself be heard. Key Words: ethics Emmanuel Levinas nonsense the Other said saying Ludwig Wittgenstein. (shrink)
What is philosophy? How should we do it? Why should we bother to? These are the kinds of questions addressed by metaphilosophy - the philosophical study of the nature of philosophy itself. Students of philosophy today are faced with a confusing and daunting array of philosophical methods, approaches and styles and also deep divisions such as the notorious rift between analytic and Continental philosophy. This book takes readers through a full range of approaches - analytic versus Continental, scientistic versus humanistic, (...) 'pure' versus applied - enabling them to locate and understand these different ways of doing philosophy. Clearly and accessibly written, it will stimulate reflection on philosophical practice and will be invaluable for students of philosophy and other philosophically inclined readers. (shrink)