Other Minds

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-V022-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 22, 2021, from

5. Criteria and other minds

Treating other minds as theoretical entities, though an alternative to the analogical inference, takes the form of a hypothetic inference. Criterialists, by contrast, have sought to avoid the one case problem by eschewing any form of inference. They have insisted that the link between behaviour and mental states is neither entailment (as in behaviourism) nor an inductive inference. The link is claimed to be conceptual and such links are characterized as criterial. Behaviour is a criterion for the presence of mental states. It has been claimed by some that such a non-inferential connection is required if we are to have any concept of the experiences of others.

An example of such a claimed non-inferential link would be the claim that itching is conceptually linked to scratching, not merely contingently correlated. Our concept of itching is that it disposes one to scratch. It is further claimed that scratching is, thereby, evidence of itching, given that itching disposes one to scratch.

That there are such conceptual links has been widely argued and widely denied. That, if there are, they would provide a sufficient basis for belief in the mental states of other people has been, if anything, even more vigorously contested. The thrust of the attack on the use of criteria to support belief in other minds seems to be that such conceptual links fail to bridge the gap between observed behaviour and the unobserved inner states to which they are conceptually linked. If there is no entailment directly from the one to the other, and there is no appeal to some form of inductive inference, it is argued that we are left with the gap. The gap cannot be crossed by fiat, as it were.

One way of understanding what has been called the attitudinal approach to other minds, is to see it as going beyond other uses of criteria in insisting that our conception of other human figures is that they are souls, have experiences. That is how we perceive them. It is as immediate as that, preceding any belief. This criterial view seems, however, to inherit the criterial gap. However we conceive of reality, our conceptions might be mistaken. There are attitudes to things and people which, though more immediate and deeper than inferential belief, are, nevertheless, mistaken (racist and sexist attitudes might be given as instances).

Citing this article:
Hyslop, Alec. Criteria and other minds. Other Minds, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-V022-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2021 Routledge.

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