Saturday, July 19, 2008

God and Other Minds

Recently, I ran into a book from the late 60's which had the thesis that a belief in god is similar to believing in other minds. You can never directly observe god and other minds (you can never experience someone else's experiences), get it? So of course it would be a little crazy to claim that other minds don't exist because then you would be the only mind (solipsism)!!! If you won't deny the existence of other minds, then supposedly it would make more sense to say that arguments for god aren't so bad...

But there's a difference here: other minds have evidence in their favor - the debate is still out on god.

No one has ever directly observed an electron, but we know they exist because we see the effect they have on nature. If you know that you have a mind and can recognize your own complex behaviors, then witnessing another being produce similar behaviors should give you good reason to believe in other minds... In other words, you have an indirect observation of other minds.

This is a pretty big bit of evidence, much more than it seems god has going for himself. The contents of the book mentioned the cosmological argument, so I'm guessing the author was going to say that complex behaviors of other beings is similar to the universe... As the universe is the indirect evidence/observation for the proposed hypothesis. In other words:

  1. I know I have a mind.
  2. I display complex behaviors.
  3. I know we each display complex behaviors.
  4. Therefore, I have good reason to believe we all have minds.

  1. God's only action, at the very least, is creating the universe.
  2. We see the universe,
  3. The universe is a result of the behavior of god,
  4. Therefore, God exists.

But then you're arguing the cosmological argument with a few extra premises, and that's nothing new!

Of course, I didn't read the book, but that's where I see it going after looking over the table of contents. Not very cool, if you ask me.

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