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New Group Discussion

  1. May 27, 2006 #1

    I was hoping to discuss the book "Other Minds" (2001) by Avramides. Or rather : discuss the topic of other minds, and use the book as a reference (as I understand it gives an historical overview of approaches to the problem).

    The problem of other minds interests me a lot. I feel there are three fundamental domains of which we know we can not know anything directly. Namely death, metaphysics (ie. everything that cannot be physically determined) and the consciousness of other beings. Of these three domains, the conscious of other beings, or other minds, is the only domain which we regularly need to work with. This is why ideas like 'the principle of charity' are necessary: principle for which we do not have any evidence, yet that we (supposedly) need to adhere to, in order to have any communication at all.

    Anyway, I'd love to have a thorough discussion about this. I was wondering if somebody of the moderator crew feels encouraged to take this up. regards,tsu.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 28, 2006 #2
    What is this principle, and why do you think it is "necessary"?

    Best Regards

  4. May 29, 2006 #3
    Defining the principle of charity is harder than naming it (considering the different approach by different philosophers).

    What it comes down to, is that I have no reason to disbelieve the sincerity of your statement unless I have good reason to believe you have an advantage in being insincere. If you tell me that you want a red pen, there's no reason for me to believe that you want a green pen, or anything other than a red pen. I know nothing of the veracity (sp?) of your statement, yet I assume I do, because it's the most rational option.
  5. May 31, 2006 #4
    Since no one bites, I suggest we do a preliminary discussion based on a couple of web links.

    This here is the overview at Stanford, which is pretty easy to read.

    It also links to this course chapter by Michael Tooley, which offers some things I'd like to discuss.


    The Other Minds problem is basically about justifying our beliefs about other minds. I have the tendency to predict what you are about to do when you say that you don't feel so good and rush to the bathroom. Is my belief justified? After all, you might just be a good actor.

    The Tooley link is interesting, because tbh, I think there's a lot of crap said there. What I'm about are the arguments against the Analytic Behaviorism approach.

    Analytic Behaviorism is the view that says you can describe mental states in terms of behavior, or in terms of behavioral dispositions. Behavioral dispositions are a matter of the behavior that the individual would exhibit if circumstances were different in various ways.

    A very radical view of this would be, in my opinion, to say that when you have a full record of neuron states, you could predict behavior based upon seeing just these states.

    Now, Tooley offers some arguments against this view. The first is a clear illustration of the kind of argument. The Inverted Spectrum argument in short is this:

    suppose your color spectrum was inverted. suppose that also your past experience and recollection of the color spectrum was inverted. Suppose now that your linguistic centrum is also inverted for colours, so when you say something is 'green', you actually mean it's 'red'. Suppose also that your past recollection of things is inverted. The point is now made that your behavioral patterns stay the same, even though your mental states are totally different.

    My answer is: what is the point? In this hypothetical example, a new mind seems to be made which in no sensible way can be distinguished from the old mind. Also, I fail to see how changing physical makeups shows anything to disprove analytical behaviorism, as the analytical behaviorism approach can detect this change in physical makeup. If my color spectrum is inverted, then someone who investigates my neurons closely will see that neurons activated for longer wavelengths, are switched with neurons activated for shorter wavelengths. Thus, analytical behaviorism can still calculate what's going on.

    I think Tooley is mixing up his ideas of the possible approaches for the other minds problem. I think that he's imagining someone who doesn't have access to the 'insides' of other people's bodies, and so my neuron approach isn't possible. However, as he's approaching the Other Minds problem (among other reasons) to be able to make ethical statements (see his question 5), it's very reasonable to assume that the actor we're thinking about in this discussion really does have this sort of access!
  6. Jun 1, 2006 #5


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    Tsunami, repost this as a poll to see how many people might be interested in a group discussion of this book and I'll pin it for you for a week or so. You can go ahead and post in both this and the General Philosophy forum. Be sure to make both polls public.

    Make a good pitch!
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