Philosophical Zombies and Belief in God as Properly Basic

Can we know or believe, using a scientific approach, that other minds exist? I’m not so sure that we can.

One (and certainly not the only) reason it is difficult to use a scientific approach relates to the problem of induction. You know that you have a mind (conscious experiences). But how confident can you be that others have similar experiences?

If you saw one black raven and knew that there were billions of other ravens out there, could you really have even halfway decent evidence that these other ravens are black? If you saw one cherry with a pit (or worm) in it, and you saw many other cherries (but you couldn’t see inside any of them), would you really have even halfway decent evidence that these other cherries had pits (or worms) in them (based only on that information)?

Some philosophers argue that we face the same problem when trying to claim that we have evidence of other minds. We can sense our own mind. We can also observe and study our brain and the brains of other people. But we cannot sense or touch or in any way directly experience other minds (the conscious experiences of others). To claim that these other brains have minds like our own using only this information is no different than claiming that all ravens are black when we have only seen one black raven. It is no different than saying that all cherries have worms after only seeing inside one cherry and noticing that it has a worm in it.

This is not a practical problem. These philosophers don’t for a moment think that we are unjustified in believing or knowing that other minds exist! They develop epistemological approaches that justify such knowledge or belief without needing evidence. In my opinion, each of these approaches (including an argument from best explanation) at least leave open the door to other “basic” beliefs, perhaps even some (but not all!) religious beliefs.

What do you think? Do you think that we can have scientific evidence of other minds? Do you think that we all accept certain “basic” beliefs or knowledge without scientific evidence?

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