The Other-Minds Problem

From: Tchighianoff, Caroline (
Date: Fri May 24 1996 - 15:10:58 BST

Question 65 - What is the other-minds problem?

The basic idea of the other minds body problem is that if we believe we
have a mind we can not guarantee that everybody else also has a mind.
We can only assume they do by observing their behaviour. For instance
when somebody hurts us, we experience pain and may show this by
behaviour such as cryng. But if we hurt somebody else and they cry we
can not actually guarantee they feel pain like we do. They may just be
acting out the appropriate way to behave when hurt, which they have
learnt from observing others responses to certain situations which may
be seen as harmful. However, if a scientist is capable of illustrating
the brain pattern that occurs when a person says they are experiencing
pain, and that this pattern is consistent across all individuals, then
this may be seen as evidence to suggest we all in fact experiencing
pain in the same way.

The turing test helps to illustrate the other-minds problem by showing
how a person can communicate with another person in one room, and a
computer in another through teletype without being able to identify any
differences between the human and the computer. From this it may be
suggested that the computer is intelligent and therefore has a mind.
However for the computer to have a mind it must be able to behave in
the same way as any individual in real life situations, as the total
turing test illustrates. Therefore the computer would need to be a
robot. If the robot can behave like a human in different situations
then we can therefore assume that it too has a mind. As we have no
eviednce that other individuals have got a mind, then we can not
conclude through lack of evidence that a robot does not have a mind.
However we must take into consideration that a robot is created by a
human, and so in this sense it does have a mind, but is just a very
complex creation.

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