V - Emotions and the Problem of Other Minds  pp. 87-104

Emotions and the Problem of Other Minds

By Hanna Pickard

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Can consideration of the emotions help to solve the problem of other minds? Intuitively, it should. We often think of emotions as public: as observable in the body, face, and voice of others. Perhaps you can simply see another's disgust or anger, say, in her demeanour and expression; or hear the sadness clearly in his voice. Publicity of mind, meanwhile, is just what is demanded by some solutions to the problem. But what does this demand amount to, and do emotions actually meet it? This paper has three parts. First, I consider the nature of the problem of other minds. Second, I consider the publicity of emotions. And third, I bring these together to show how emotions can help to solve the problem.

Traditionally, there are two problems of other minds: one epistemological, one conceptual. The epistemological problem asks how you can know, or how you can be justified in believing, that another person has a mind at all: that there exist other subjects of experience. The conceptual problem asks how you can so much as understand that there could exist other minds or subjects of experience: how you can have the concept of another's mind or experience. But why suppose these problems exist? They both arise, in part, from the same idea. This is the idea of an ontological distinction between experience (mind) and behaviour (body): they are not the same type of thing.

The idea is intuitive. Consider, for instance, the possibility of pretence. Another person may be carrying on as if in pain, say, grimacing and crying out, but not be in pain at all.