Friday, June 19, 2009

8 How do I know that you have a mind too?

It is all Descartes' fault. He started it, but don't forget Locke and Hume. They are at least equally guilty. Guilty of what? Well..... the fact that it has become an epistemological problem: the existence of YOUR mind.

My mind is fine. I am absolutely sure I have on, but you all there? I wonder, how I can be certain about that. But let me begin by the beginning.

The quitessence of epistemology is the question : What can I know? What can I be 100% certain of? Descartes thought that he had found THE answer.

You just begin to doubt everything, really everything, nothing excluded. All you see, hear, feel, all can be imagination. And then he discovered that amidst all these doubts there always is ME.

Even when I dare to doubt, that I exist, I cant escape that doubting ME. Magnificent, there is always me. Me, who has to do the doubting. So I can NOT negate this ME. And thus he invented his Cogito, ergo sum.

I think, so I am. But the price he had to pay was high, because what else is there really except ME? I mean, about what else can I be absolutely certain except about my existence?

And thus was Descartes due to his own epistemological analysis trapped in solipsime. In fact the brother in arms of the problem of other minds. Solipsism holds the doctrine that only the self exists.

Descartes evades the solipsistic consequences of his method of doubt by the desperate expedient of appealing to the benevolence of God. Since God is no deceiver, he argues,

and since He has created man with an innate disposition to assume the existence of an external, public world corresponding to the private world of the "ideas" that are the only immediate objects of consciousness, it follows that such a public world actually exists.

Kind of a Deus ex machine, actually. I think we should look for a more contemporary solution of this problem. Stephen Law is in this matter a challenge.

He ends his chapter on this question with the statement: "Can I rationally defend my belief that there are minds , other minds than my own? I wouldn't know how to do that."

It surprised me, for we ran into this problem already before, when we discussed the question about my thinking computer. If you want to answer that question you must begin with accepting that you can have knowledge of other minds.

I said that Locke and Hume are guilty of this problem too. That is because they claimed that all we have is our private sensory experiences.

So, like Descartes they too say that we are imprisoned in our own mind. But does this really make sense and is Stephen Law right with his claim that there are no rational arguments against solipsism,

I dont think so. Let me take the short route and say that solipsim as well as the other minds problem are incoherent theories. And rational arguments? Let's start with common sense.

The problem for the solipsist is that he uses language to make his point, which in fact makes little sense from his point of view,

for to make an appeal to logical rules or empirical evidence the solipsist would implicitly have to affirm the very thing that he purportedly refuses to believe: the reality of intersubjectively valid criteria and a public, extra-mental world.

Something similar could be said about other minds. If we only know our own mind, where does the idea come from that there are more minds? Locke said, well, we conclude to that based on analogy.

But the problem with that appoach is that we make a generalization about all other human beings based on one obersvation,

and furthermore we dont see other minds at all, we just see human behavior. Basically this supposes that the mind is something different from the body,

or in a Cartesian perception even could exist without the body. But with refering to my former lecture on the biology of belief, it makes perfectly good sense to me to say, that there can't exist a mind without a body.

Or even more emphatically, that the body at least generates the mind, not to say that body and mind are identical and all mental statements are another way of talking about the body.

To be honest, I find this Other minds problem pretty uninteresting, however, it points our attention are fundamental epistemological questions, which means that everyone has to give his or her philosophical answer on the question why it is not so, that we are imprisoned in our private mind.

The Discussion

[13:30] herman Bergson: So much on this subject..
[13:31] herman Bergson: Thank you for your attention ^_^
[13:31] oola Neruda: that is a difficult one
[13:31] herman Bergson: In what way are you familiar with solipsim Justine?
[13:31] herman Bergson: You think so , oola?
[13:32] oola Neruda: yes... it seems related to conciousness.. and i am not even sure what that is... when you realize it has to come from the brain
[13:32] Justine Rhapsody begins to think.
[13:32] oola Neruda: it is confusing
[13:33] herman Bergson: well..the quintessence of this problem is our source of knowledge
[13:33] herman Bergson: empiricist and rationalist start with the private brain...
[13:33] Justine Rhapsody: well from what I have read all perceptions are created within the brain itself, though the eyes and ears are receivers.
[13:34] oola Neruda: didn't someone talk about instinct and sensory impressions?
[13:34] Justine Rhapsody: I don't know how to phrase the idea properly
[13:34] herman Bergson: Yes...
[13:34] oola Neruda: and being born knowing things... vs. born not knowing things
[13:34] herman Bergson: The main point here is what ontology you uphold
[13:35] herman Bergson: The closest to comon sense is realism...the conviction that there exists an external world independent of the mind
[13:35] Justine Rhapsody: Sensory impressions are from the electromagnetic spectrum
[13:35] Justine Rhapsody: but the way we see objects etc is put together within our brain
[13:36] oola Neruda: essence
[13:36] herman Bergson: yes, Justine...there is no resemblance between the observed object and what happens in the brain
[13:36] herman Bergson: but there is a relation
[13:37] Justine Rhapsody: But since we agree upon many basics, and the insturments of science help us understand, we can believe in a world outside our minds.
[13:37] herman Bergson: that means..everytime we see a certain object..the same process is triggered in th ebrain
[13:37] oola Neruda: cause and effect
[13:37] oola Neruda: creating experience???
[13:38] Justine Rhapsody: and we have areas of the brain that put sensory impressions together, sight sound and touch,
[13:38] herman Bergson: to make sense we even have to postulate the existence of an outside world
[13:38] Justine Rhapsody: I wish I knew what i was talking about lol
[13:38] herman Bergson: It still makes sense what you say
[13:39] Justine Rhapsody: I have read articles, but my memory for detail is poor
[13:39] oola Neruda: because "others" react... with us.... doesn't that help to lead to a conclusion that they are independent of us
[13:39] oola Neruda: react to us
[13:39] oola Neruda: hmmm not necessarily
[13:40] herman Bergson: Yes oola...I am really not so impressed about this other minds issue....
[13:40] herman Bergson: those other minds are just a matter of facrt
[13:40] herman Bergson: Hello Samuel
[13:40] oola Neruda: hello Samuel
[13:40] Justine Rhapsody: it must be one of the first lessons learned as a baby, the existence of others
[13:41] Samuel Okelly: hello every1
[13:41] Justine Rhapsody: hello Samuel
[13:41] herman Bergson: As you see make a crowd ^_^
[13:41] Samuel Okelly: :)
[13:41] herman Bergson: yes...Justine ..the development of babies is interesting...
[13:41] oola Neruda: i was thinking... to "realize" that other minds exist... in a similar way, can we not realize God exists... independantly of us
[13:42] herman Bergson: In the first few months they only grab what they see....when you hide it they forget about it
[13:42] herman Bergson: But after while....
[13:42] herman Bergson: when you hide the object in front of their eyes under a cloth, the baby will search under the cloth
[13:43] herman Bergson: it means that he reasons...even tho I dont see it the object is still there so let's grab it
[13:43] oola Neruda: even though i do not see it... it is still there
[13:44] herman Bergson: yes
[13:44] Justine Rhapsody: except with God there is much less evidence than for other human minds.
[13:44] herman Bergson: So the mind concludes in an early stage that there exists something outside and independent of the mind out there
[13:45] Samuel Okelly: behaviour as an expression of belief
[13:45] oola Neruda: that is a good way of puting it Samuel
[13:45] Justine Rhapsody: So it seems obvious that there are minds; then some children think everything has a mind the same as humans
[13:45] herman Bergson: Well..they have tried to explain the eistence of other minds by refering to behavior...
[13:46] herman Bergson: Yes..children have a animistic period in their young life..
[13:46] herman Bergson: it is the intuitive thinking I refered to in my former lecture
[13:46] Samuel Okelly: can we proove other minds exist?
[13:47] Samuel Okelly: in fact, can we proove anything exists?
[13:47] oola Neruda: that questions scares and concerns me sometimes...
[13:47] oola Neruda: how to know
[13:47] herman Bergson: do we know there are other minds if we only know that we have a mind oursleves only
[13:48] Samuel Okelly: i agree oola
[13:48] Justine Rhapsody: We can believe the evidence of science
[13:48] herman Bergson: How can I deduce from my having a mind that there have to be other minds too?
[13:48] Samuel Okelly: and what precisely is that evidence justine?
[13:48] oola Neruda: interaction?
[13:48] oola Neruda: that is not enough proof
[13:49] Samuel Okelly: "interaction " assume an other
[13:49] herman Bergson: So if you take a solipsistic stand and start talking of other minds your theory becomes incoherent.
[13:49] oola Neruda: smiles... oh ... yes
[13:50] Samuel Okelly: maybe it highlights the limits of the scientific method alone
[13:50] Samuel Okelly: maybe it suggests that we need to take a broader more encompassing view of what it actually means "to know" anything?
[13:50] herman Bergson: Yes....I think you cant find a rockbottom proof....
[13:50] herman Bergson: but you can find intersubjectivity
[13:51] oola Neruda: in a way... it feels like kin of existentialism... in that "aloneness"... creating your own..whatevers
[13:51] herman Bergson: You have the social system of language..
[13:51] Justine Rhapsody: Well again I wish I knew more of what I am talking about - but the scientific proof for things like the earth being round, and the planets revolving around the sun - none of this have I experienced with my own senses, so I have to learn and believe.
[13:51] Samuel Okelly: i agree justine
[13:52] herman Bergson: No, Justine, you dont need to believe....
[13:52] Samuel Okelly: doesn't everything boil down to "belief"?
[13:52] oola Neruda: hmmmm ... there may be no way to escape it... you have a point Samuel
[13:52] herman Bergson: If you knew the principles , axoms etc. you could deduce these facts from them
[13:53] herman Bergson: There is nothing wrong with believing...
[13:53] Samuel Okelly: to hold that my sensory info applies to the actual exterior reality of an objective world is an act of faith
[13:53] herman Bergson: The fact is that the beliefs you hold can be regarded as pragmatic tools to deal with reality
[13:54] oola Neruda: our sences not give us the evidence for some other things tho... like love...
[13:54] herman Bergson: Depends on how you define faith , samuel
[13:54] oola Neruda: so it has to be more than just sensory
[13:54] herman Bergson: You could define it as: pragmatic choice
[13:55] Samuel Okelly: here i use it to be synonymous with "belief"
[13:55] herman Bergson: It is not some supernatural step you take or something like that
[13:55] Justine Rhapsody: choosing what to believe - without education, most people would have no idea what to believe, except for their own pragmatic observations.
[13:55] Samuel Okelly: fides et ratio
[13:55] herman Bergson: is a common result of how the central nervous system operates
[13:56] Justine Rhapsody: You mean learning by experience?
[13:56] oola Neruda: i worked with blind children... and there is a difference between a child born blind and one that becomes blind later
[13:56] herman Bergson: Yes, Justine
[13:56] Justine Rhapsody smiles.
[13:56] oola Neruda: their "observations" are different
[13:57] herman Bergson: of course, oola
[13:57] oola Neruda: and their actions are too because they do not see...
[13:57] oola Neruda: like they do not turn their head or reach... which leads to crawling... etc
[13:57] oola Neruda: affects development... also their entire view of the world
[13:57] Samuel Okelly: we can not assume “understanding” as being an inevitable result of “observation”
[13:58] oola Neruda: yes... as i said... like love...
[13:58] herman Bergson: what do you mean Samuel
[13:59] Samuel Okelly: simply that we observe does not always mean that we understand what is observed
[13:59] Samuel Okelly: too err is human ;-)
[13:59] herman Bergson: no..but that is the way of science....
[13:59] herman Bergson: you observe....put your observations in a context...and test your theory..
[14:00] Samuel Okelly: that too can be monumentally wrong
[14:00] oola Neruda: if i were doing it alone... my theory, tested time and time again would be that the earth is flat
[14:01] Justine Rhapsody: I am afraid mine would be as well :)
[14:01] herman Bergson: That a theory proofs wrong is only a good thing...the basics of falsificationism:-)
[14:01] Samuel Okelly: so we must be aware of our ignorance?
[14:01] herman Bergson: So, oola, test your theory that the earth is flat...walk to the edge :-)
[14:01] oola Neruda: that is actually the way it is done... you keep testing until you find that one possible instance where the theory is not correct
[14:02] Samuel Okelly: or at the very least the possibility of our ignorance
[14:02] oola Neruda: as long as you don't find can keep using it
[14:02] herman Bergson: the pragmatic way, oola :-)
[14:02] oola Neruda: :-)
[14:03] oola Neruda: you always have to assume that there might possibly be an exception
[14:03] Samuel Okelly: doesnt that define what is meant by "reason" ?
[14:03] herman Bergson: So when I have a theory about reality, that other minds exist independent of my own mind and it works, doesnt lead to contradictions, ,I am quit satisfied
[14:04] herman Bergson: By reason you can mean, that you accept and apply the basic rules of logic
[14:04] Samuel Okelly: yeah
[14:05] Samuel Okelly: whilst not denying the necessity and ultimate reality of "faith"
[14:05] herman Bergson: you mean the confidence you have in logic, samuel?
[14:06] Justine Rhapsody: I would like someday to know the basic rules of logic, as I have forgotten what I learned of them in college.
[14:06] Samuel Okelly: that we are forced to acknowledge that the role of belief at the core of our knowledge
[14:06] herman Bergson: Hmm...let me see
[14:07] Samuel Okelly: we assume a belief in the premise of the argument
[14:07] herman Bergson: Most important rule is that something can not be true and untrue at the same time
[14:07] Justine Rhapsody nods
[14:07] oola Neruda: argument... is a key word here
[14:07] oola Neruda: rather than proof
[14:08] oola Neruda: can we ever really have proof
[14:08] Samuel Okelly: sure, we believe the truth value of any statement
[14:08] herman Bergson: we dont need to believe in premisses...they can be about observed facts
[14:08] oola Neruda: i observe the earth is flat
[14:08] Samuel Okelly: as i say herman, what we "observe" is not always "fact"
[14:08] herman Bergson: no...not just believe...we know...
[14:10] herman Bergson: of course not...we establish facts by scientific reasearch for instance
[14:10] Samuel Okelly: all what we "know" is ultimately a belief in something
[14:10] oola Neruda: that thing about language
[14:10] Samuel Okelly: belief is at the core of our being
[14:10] oola Neruda: how language affects what we "see"
[14:10] oola Neruda: observe
[14:10] oola Neruda: because you cannot scientifically prove everything...
[14:11] herman Bergson: I could say that choice is the core of our being...
[14:11] oola Neruda: abstracts especially
[14:11] Samuel Okelly: choice presumes a reality
[14:11] herman Bergson: we choose to stick to some theory, because it works...
[14:11] Samuel Okelly: a "belief" in a reality"
[14:12] herman Bergson: no....we choose a theory that has as axiom that there exists an external world, a reality
[14:12] herman Bergson: it is not a belief, it is a cognitive step we take
[14:12] Samuel Okelly: i disagree
[14:12] Samuel Okelly: we can "claim" anything
[14:13] Samuel Okelly: because it is not disproven does not render it "true"
[14:13] oola Neruda: hubble said the different shapes of galaxies demonstrate different phases of the evolution of a galaxy....
[14:13] oola Neruda: people believed that for a long time
[14:13] herman Bergson: as long as it is effectivew, supports our survival, we will do so indeed
[14:14] Samuel Okelly: a cognitive step we take does not establish proof
[14:14] oola Neruda: like hubble
[14:14] herman Bergson: they did not believe...they took it as scientific fact...untilll this fact is falsified
[14:14] oola Neruda: right
[14:14] oola Neruda: exactly
[14:14] herman Bergson: proof isnt interesting at all...
[14:15] herman Bergson: I mean...what means proof?
[14:15] herman Bergson: proof like a mathematical deduction?
[14:15] herman Bergson: or proof in the sense: see it with your own eyes?
[14:15] oola Neruda: neither one is reliable
[14:16] oola Neruda: they are placeholders
[14:16] Justine Rhapsody: mathematics is reliable, once a person learns to understand it.
[14:16] Justine Rhapsody: placeholders is interesting oola
[14:16] herman Bergson: what we do is supporting a theory untill it is is falsified
[14:16] oola Neruda: yup
[14:16] oola Neruda: we believe
[14:17] Samuel Okelly: For thousands of years scientists of the day claimed the earth was flat (all the evidence pointed to that) And so everyone believed it was flat. Later, some ppl questioned this and claimed the earth was spherical,, (some believed this to be true and some did not). Now, most ppl believe the earth to be spherical. During this time, has the earth changed in shape because of our axioms?
[14:17] oola Neruda: we put our faith in it
[14:18] herman Bergson: What is your point here, Samuel?
[14:18] Samuel Okelly: fides et ratio
[14:18] oola Neruda: faith in observation...that it is flat
[14:18] herman Bergson: Not the earth changed its shape, we changed our theory, because it proofed to be more effective
[14:19] Samuel Okelly: that ur "belief" did not establish objective fact
[14:19] herman Bergson: the new theory explained phenomena better than the old one
[14:19] oola Neruda: so it is not proof
[14:19] Samuel Okelly: ultimately everything IS a form of belief in something
[14:19] herman Bergson: "objective" fact is as uninteresting as proof
[14:20] herman Bergson: If you mean with belief: based on some sort of theory, I agree
[14:20] oola Neruda: theory = argument
[14:20] oola Neruda: locgical
[14:20] oola Neruda: logical
[14:20] Samuel Okelly: i would prefer "reason" rather than theory , but essentialy i agree
[14:21] oola Neruda: yes... i agree... reasong=
[14:21] oola Neruda: reason
[14:21] herman Bergson: Well...When we all agree it is a nice moment to dismiss class ^_^
[14:21] oola Neruda: lol
[14:21] Samuel Okelly: :)
[14:21] Justine Rhapsody: :)
[14:21] herman Bergson: Thank you all for your participation :-)
[14:22] Samuel Okelly: apologies again for my late arrival
[14:22] Justine Rhapsody: thank you
[14:22] oola Neruda: thank you for the work in preparing
[14:22] Samuel Okelly: i will look forward to catching up on the web
[14:22] herman Bergson: my pleasure...

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