chapter  1
Other wills: the second-person in ethics
ByDouglas Lavin
Pages 4

The traditional problem of other minds. What is it to encounter, recognize and understand the point of view of another subject – a mind that is not one’s own? The problem of other minds is traditionally posed as a problem of discovery. If there is one thing of which I am certain it is the reality of my own mind. It is not that I have all the proof I need, but that I do not really need any at all: the actuality of my thinking is beyond doubt, not one among many things I know, but a condition of my knowing anything at all. When I encounter anyone else, however, there does seem to be room for a question. It seems all I can perceive are ‘outward’ conditions of bodily movement and make-up, behavior and physiology. How, then, can I know, how can I be sure, there is actually anyone else but me with an ‘inner’ life of thoughts and feelings? Raising this question of warrant presupposes a prior understanding of what it would be for another to have a mind. The conceptual problem of other minds scrutinizes this presupposition. What can it even mean to speak of a mind other than one’s own? The sort of immediate, ‘from the inside’ mode of awareness of thinking and feeling, when I myself think and feel, seems unavailable as a way of knowing the condition of any other creature. Indeed, what is known in this ordinary first-person way seems to be inseparable from being so known, from awareness of these conditions of mind as my own. How, then, can I have an idea of pain I do not feel, sights I do not see, a life of the mind which is not a life lived by me? Giving conceptual priority to the firstperson perspective in this way threatens to put out of reach the very idea of a general representation of the mental, and so to put out of reach the idea of a manifold of intelligent beings of which I am one among others.