Volume 18, 1993
D. L. C. MacLachlan
Strawson and the Argument for Other Minds
The classical argument for the existence of other minds begins by ascribing states of consciousness to oneself, and argues to the existence of other conscious beings on the basis of an analogy in bodily constitution and behavior. P. F. Strawson attacks the foundation of this argument. “One can ascribe states of consciousness to oneself only if one can ascribe them to others. One can ascribe them to others only if one can identify other subjects of experience.” My thesis is that this objection depends on running together the two distinct necessary conditions for ascribing states of consciousness. There is the conceptual condition (a general concept of consciousness); and there is the referential condition (the capacity to identify suitable subjects).
A version of the argument from analogy is also developed which does not presuppose an original consciousness that my experiences are mine. The general concept of experience is by itself enough for the original specification of all experiences associated with body M, because other experiences which also conform to the concept are not introduced until the argument from analogy is complete.