Other minds are neither seen nor inferred

Synthese 198 (12):11977-11997 (2020)
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How do we know about other minds on the basis of perception? The two most common answers to this question are that we literally perceive others’ mental states, or that we infer their mental states on the basis of perceiving something else. In this paper, I argue for a different answer. On my view, we don’t perceive mental states, and yet perceptual experiences often immediately justify mental state attributions. In a slogan: other minds are neither seen nor inferred. I argue that this view offers the best explanation of our deeply equivocal intuitions about perception-based mental state attributions, and also holds substantial interest for the epistemology of perception more generally.

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Mason Westfall
Washington University in St. Louis


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