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Unformatted text preview: Activitas Nervosa Superior 2010; 52 :3-4,105-112 105 C ONSCIOUSNESS AND THE P ROBLEM OF O THER M INDS John ODea* University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan Received September 30, 2010; accepted October 10, 2010 Abstract Because a conception of consciousness based on direct self-awareness does not generalise easily to other cases, a fully general theory of consciousness under this conception may not be possible, as Ned Block (2003) has pointed out. In this paper, I discuss the possibility of doing away with the underlying idea, common in philosophical and scientific circles, that consciousness is a first-person concept in the first instance, from which we infer outwards to others. I suggest that notable Phenomenological descriptions of the centrality and automaticity of our experience of others is broadly in line with the evidence from psychology and the neurosciences; recent work on possible mirror and related mechanisms for engaging with the mental states of others, together with behavioural and developmental studies, all undermine the infe- rential approach to other minds. I defend the possibility that the conception of mentality that underlies our engagement with others from infancy does not arise from self-awareness, and that if so, the way we theorise about consciousness in its most general sense may have to change. Key words: Consciousness; Hard Problem; Mind; Self; Other Minds INTRODUCTION What do we believe when we believe that others are conscious? When are those beliefs justified? Attempts to answer these questions in the Analytic philosophical tradition have focussed on the idea that we arrive at a conception of mentality via direct self-awareness of some kind, and then attribute mentality under that con- ception to others through a process of inference, either analogical (other people are externally like me, so it as very likely that they are like me internally as well) or abductive (being conscious is the best way of explaining why other people move as they do). However, because a conception of consciousness based on direct self- awareness does not generalise easily to other cases, a fully general theory of consciousness under this concep- tion may not be possible, as has been well argued by Ned Block (2003). In this paper, I discuss the possibility of doing away with the idea that consciousness is a first- person concept in the first instance, from which we infer outwards to others. Key thinkers in the Phenomenologi- cal tradition, notably Husserl and Merleau-Ponty, de- fended a non-inferential approach to other minds, as have some notable Analytic philosophers. Recent find- ings in the cognitive and brain sciences add significant weight to this idea. If it is true that our judgements about other minds are meaningfully direct, then the idea that our conception of consciousness is derived solely from self-awareness will need to be discarded. I argue that this possibility has potentially far-reaching consequences for the search for a truly general theory of...
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This note was uploaded on 03/08/2011 for the course CLINICAL P 2010 taught by Professor Actnervsuper during the Spring '11 term at The Chicago School of Prof. Psychology.
- Spring '11
- Philosophical Investigations