Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

The Problem of Other Minds: The Aesthetic Solution

Philosophy News image
In epistemology the problem of the external world is the challenge of proving that I can know that there are entities that exist other than me. Even if it is assumed that there is an external world, there remains the problem of other minds: the challenge of proving that I can know that there is at least one other being that has a mind. The common version of this problem tends to start with the assumption that other beings exist, and the challenge is to prove that I can know that these other beings have minds (or lack minds). Our good dead friend Descartes offered the best-known effort to solve the problem of the external world and in trying to solve this problem he also, perhaps unintentionally, attempted to solve the problem of other minds. In his Meditations Descartes set out to create an infallible foundation of knowledge by his method of doubting his beliefs until he found a belief he could not doubt.  As part of this project, he hoped to solve the problem of the external world. After his doubting spree in the first Meditation, he took his belief that he thinks and the belief that he exists to be certain and indubitable.  In trying to prove that something exists other than him, Descartes attempts to prove that God exists—that is, he attempted to solve the problem of the external world by solving a version of the problem of other minds. Proving that God exists would prove that another mind exists, thus solving a limited version of each problem. While Descartes grinds through a plethora of proofs, his key reasoning for the purposes of this essay is his notion that the cause of a belief must contain as much reality as the belief itself. Roughly put, you can think of this reasoning as analogous to reasoning that whatever charged a mobile phone battery must have at least as much power as in in the battery (assuming the battery charged from zero). Descartes based this reasoning on the principle that something cannot arise from nothing. Roughly put, Descartes claimed. . .

Continue reading . . .

News source: A Philosopher's Blog

blog comments powered by Disqus