Argument from other minds

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Alvin Plantinga argued that it is difficult to prove other minds exist. Similarly, the existence of God is also difficult to prove. Since both views are equally credible despite of the difficulty and the existence of other minds is generally accepted, it is plausible that god exists.

"If my belief in other minds is rational, so is my belief in God. But obviously the former is rational; so, therefore, is the latter. [...] What I argued, in essence, is that from this point of view belief in other minds and belief in God are on an epistemological pare. In neither case are there good arguments of the sort required; hence if the absence of such arguments in the theistic case demonstrates irrationality, the same goes for belief in other minds. [1]"

Counter arguments

Plantinga claims that good arguments are not required. If we abandon rigorous examination of arguments, as suggested by this argument, we may admit almost any speculative proposition as true. This is absurd, moving the goalposts and impractical.

While Plantigna finds the arguments against the existence of God unsatisfactory, that does not show that God is more probable. He is attempting to shift the burden of proof by demanding irrefutable arguments for the non-existence of God, which is almost impossible to provide.

The analogical comparison between the existence of God and other minds is assert but by no means certain. Either proposition could be true or false and they are independent of each other. Arguably, there is evidence for other minds, such as behaviorism, but the same cannot be said for theism.

The conclusion of the argument is weak. It only shows the possibility of the existence of God, and reasonableness of belief, rather than the actuality. No new evidence is presented.

It is possible that other minds do not exist after all. What is meant by an "other mind" apart from what can be inferred using a fMRI scanner is questionable. The belief in other minds is probably just a convenient assumption but cannot be said to be "rational".

We can also suspend judgement on both issues without being inconsistent. I can continue to interact with people without knowing if they have other minds or not, based on some completely different motivation.

See also


  1. Alvin Plantinga, 1990 preface to God and Other Minds
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