What is the Problem of Other Minds?

DEPARTMENT: PHILOSOPHY PROJECT TOPIC: The Problem of Other Minds: A Critique of the Analogical Strategy Background to the study The problem of other minds is the question of how we can know that there are minds other than our own. We, each experience our own minds directly from within. We can each apprehend our sensations and emotions in a way that is felt. We can know what we want or believe through introspection, but our knowledge of other peoples minds is very different, it seems. We cannot experience other peoples mental states. It seems that all we have to go on is other peoples behavior, that is expressed through their bodies. The problem of other minds is the problem of how to justify the almost universal beliefs that others have minds very much like our own. The problem of other minds is an issue in the philosophy of mind. The central question of the problem is, what entitles us to make claim that other human beings do have mental states? Different schools of thoughts such as materialism, and scholars such as J. S. Mill, Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, among others have contributed substantially to resolving the problems of other minds. There are, at least, two problems of other minds. The first is the traditional problem of other minds which is an epistemological problem. The epistemological problem of other minds is concerned with how our beliefs about mental states other than our own might be justified. There is also a conceptual problem: how is it possible for us to form a concept of mental states other than our own. It is generally thought that the materials used to fashion the epistemological problem are the very same materials that produced the conceptual problem. The conceptual problem is generally raised in the context of solving the epistemological problem. One view here is that there can only be an epistemological problem if the conceptual problem is solved, but solving the conceptual problem solves the epistemological problem (Malcolm 1962a). The conceptual problem has received less attention than the epistemological problem and that would be the case here. There are two main approaches to resolve the problem of other minds. One of the approaches is the Analogical Strategy which is considered the traditional solution to the problem of other mind. It makes an inference from observed behavior to unobserved conscious experience. It argues that other persons are like me in such a way that I have feelings, sensations, and I do feel pain and from my observation of other persons, we are made of the same bodily structure, bodily modification, bodily behavior and they also do feel pain (Mill 1979,). Some of the proponents of this approach are John Stuart Mill, A. J. Ayer, among others. The other solution to the problem of the other minds is the Criteria approach. This approach claims that the link between behavior and mental state is neither an inductive reference nor an entailment. For the supporters of this approach, the connection between mental states and behavior is conceptual and is characterized as criteria, thus for them behavior is a criteria for mental states(Malcolm 1962b). One of the proponents of this approach is Wittgenstein(1953). To these two approaches, there are various objections concerning the problem of other minds. Although, it is difficult to solve the problem of other minds, it is unavoidable. This essay submits that analogical strategy is plausible to an extent although might not be sufficient enough in the face of justification (Melnyk 1994). There is a comprehensive treatment of the conceptual problem by Avramides(2001,particularly part three). Both McGinn (1984) and Nagel (1986, chapter II, especially section 3) are essential reading; as is Wittgenstein (.) who is responsible for the emergence of the conceptual problem as a significant issue in the problem of the minds. From here on, my focus will be the epistemological problem rather than the conceptual problem. Literature Review Avramides, traces the history of the problem of other minds from the Ancient Greek Philosophers to the present day. It suggests an answer to the question: when does the problem arise in the history of philosophy? Avramides takes the view that all the issue that others give rise to is conceptual, not epistemological (Avramides 2001). Thomas Olshewsky argues for a reformed analogical approach. For him, analogical approach has been criticized by the Skeptic and the Therapist, thus, he denied some things about analogical approach. Like for him, analogical approach is not even analogical as it has been dealt with traditionally but he developed a reconstruction approach of which he claims that there should be shift from mind to person and shift from behavior to action. It was in this light that he formulated a new analogical approach ( Olshewsky 1974). John Stuart Mill also propounded a form of analogical strategy, which is that from observation of some facts and similarities between us and others we can infer that other people have mental states since they have the same bodily structure, bodily modification and they have sensation. He defended the analogical account of the problem of other minds from the Skeptics, claiming that the idea of sensation and behavior does not happen simultaneously or one after the other. To him, sensation is that which caused behavior and he claims that idea of connection that it does attack by the skeptics is that of correlation and not connection (Sayward 2003). Statement of the research problem The Argument from Analogy which as cogently stated by John Stuart Mill argues that, because ones body and outward behavior are observably similar to the bodies and behavior of others, one is justified by analogy in believing that others have feelings like ones own and not simply the bodies and behavior of automatons. This Argument has been repeatedly attacked since the 1940s especially by followers/disciples of Ludwig Wittgenstein who asserted that the argument is superfluous or its conclusions unintelligible to the person who would make it, because in order to know what the conclusion that human figure has thoughts and feelings means, one would have to know what criteria are involved in correctly or incorrectly stating that someone has thoughts or feelings and knowledge of these criteria would render the Argument from Analogy unnecessary. Another objection to the argument is that it seems to assume one in fact knows what it is to have feelings simply by introspection. This research seeks to defend the Argument from Analogy. In doing so, this study seeks to answer the following questions; 1. Has the Analogical Strategy been able to solve the epistemological problem concerned with justifying beliefs about mental states other than our own? 2. Has the Analogical Strategy been able to provide a justification for beliefs in other minds despite strong objections raised by the followers/disciples of Wittgenstein such as Norman Malcolm ? Aims and Specific Objectives The following are the specific objectives of this study; clarify the problem of other minds 2. To explain the Analogical Strategy as contained in some of its advocates such as J .S. Mill, Bertrand Russell, A. J. Ayer, among others. defend a minimalist version of the Analogical Strategy to the problem of other minds. CHAPTERIZATION Chapter One: What is the Problem of Other Minds? Introduction . What is a Mind? . Problems of Other Minds . Two versions of Other Minds Problem: . Epistemological Problem . Conceptual Problem . Concluding Remarks Chapter Two: Argument from Analogy . Introduction . Arguments from Analogy Broadly Conceived . Advocates of Argument from Analogy: . J. S. Mills Version . Bertrand Russells Version . A. J. Ayers Version . H. H. Prices Version . Concluding Remarks Chapter Three: A Defense of Analogical Strategy . Introduction . Some Objections to Analogical Strategy Defending Analogical Strategy against Objections Concluding Remarks Summary Conclusion Bibliography Everything should be fully referenced.