Problems of Other Minds: Solutions and Dissolutions in Analytic and Continental Philosophy

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Abstract

While there is a great diversity of treatments of other minds and inter-subjectivity within both analytic and continental philosophy, this article specifies some of the core structural differences between these treatments. Although there is no canonical account of the problem of other minds that can be baldly stated and that is exhaustive of both traditions, the problem(s) of other minds can be loosely defined in family resemblances terms. It seems to have: (1) an epistemological dimension (How do we know that others exist? Can we justifiably claim to know that they do?); (2) an ontological dimension that incorporates issues having to do with personal identity (What is the structure of our world such that inter-subjectivity is possible? What are the fundamental aspects of our relations to others? How do they impact upon our self-identity?); and (3) A conceptual dimension in that it depends on one’s answer to the question what is a mind (How does the mind – or the concept of ‘mind’– relate to the brain, the body and the world?). While these three issues are co-imbricated, I will claim that analytic engagements with the problem of other minds focus on (1), whereas continental philosophers focus far more on (2). In addition, this article will also point to various other downstream consequences of this, including the preoccupation with embodiment and forms of expressivism that feature heavily in various forms of continental philosophy, and which generally aim to ground our relations with others in a pre-reflective manner of inhabiting the world that is said to be the condition of reflection and knowledge.

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