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© Michael Lacewing Behaviourism and the problem of other minds Michael Lacewing

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1 © Michael Lacewing Behaviourism and the problem of other minds Michael Lacewing

2 Behaviourism Controversial claim: behaviour can be described and explained without reference to inner states Logical behaviourism: talk about the mind and mental states is talk about behaviour –Concepts referring to inner states can be translated into concepts referring to behaviour Scientific theory: psychology, as a science, can aim only at the explanation and prediction of behaviour, not ‘inner’ mental states

3 Pain Simplest form: pain is pain behaviour But someone might not show their pain; and an actor might pretend to be in pain Sophisticated: talk of pain is talk of the disposition to exhibit pain behaviour –The stoic is disposed this way, but prevents the behaviour; the actor fakes the disposition

4 An advantage Problem of mental causation: how do mental events, e.g. making a decision, cause physical events, e.g. walking? Solution: there are no inner states ‘causing’ behaviour; and dispositions are defined in terms of behaviour

5 The problem of other minds I know I have a mind; how do I know you have a mind? Four suggestions: –The hypothesis that you have a mind is the ‘best explanation’ for your behaviour –I can experience your mind directly, e.g. when I have a sense of being watched –Analogy: you behave like me and are physiologically the same; since I have a mind, I infer by analogy that you do too –Your behaviour isn’t evidence of your mind, it is a criterion for saying you have a mind (there is no inference)

6 Against analogy Ryle: you cannot make an induction based on one case Inductive conclusions should be able to be checked - but it is logically impossible to ‘check’ if other people have minds

7 Solving the problem If mental states = dispositions to behaviour, then we don’t infer from behaviour to mental state; rather behaviour displayed is logical criterion for having that disposition To say you have a mind is to say you are disposed to certain types of complex behaviour; and I can observe that directly

8 The ‘inner’ world We can tell our own mental states from introspection; how is this possible if they are dispositions to behave? Many mental states have a ‘phenomenology’ - they aren’t just dispositions to behave, but also feel a certain way. E.g. isn’t it possible that we have identical dispositions, but different experiences (inverted spectrum)?

9 Replies Is the inverted spectrum coherent? How do we describe what green looks like except ‘green’?! And how can we learn what ‘green’ means except from others? The meaning of the words are fixed publicly, not ‘privately’. I can’t ‘compare’ your experience and mine in the way suggested - but that is because it is logically impossibly Likewise introspection: I learned to identify my mental states from other people - so even though I can now do so by introspection, they must be linked to behaviour

10 Reducing to behaviour There is no set behaviour correlated with a mental state - the same state produces very different behaviour in different contexts But to describe these contexts, we have to refer to other mental states, and then the problem arises again - so a reduction to behaviour is impossible

11 Reply ‘Behaviour’ is understood too narrowly; when expression is included, the problem can be solved Objection: expressive descriptions of behaviour use the very mental concepts behaviourism is trying to reduce

12 Conclusion Behaviourism’s analysis of talk about the mind shows that there must be a link between mental states and what is publicly available, because language is public But its attempts at reduction are problematic; so functionalism talks of behaviour, input and other mental states Psychology recognises the importance of interpretation - we can’t predict or explain from stimulus alone; the ability to represent our experience to ourselves makes us so complex


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