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Philosophy of Mind 101: "We"; Do We Exist?


This 101 series enucleates the topics of the inquiries on philosophy of mind and cognitive science from a critical perspective. It covers the topics of behaviourism, mind-body identity, functionalism and computationalism theories thoroughly; and brings more recent concepts, methodologies, and the theories to light. Throughout the series, these theories will be critically analysed. This elaboration as well as the critical analysis is planned to help the reader to have an understanding and comprehension of the mental world, concepts and processes, and different approaches to this realm. The main concerns of this series ask questions such as 'what is the mind?' , 'how does it work?', 'why does it work?', 'what is its purpose if there is one?'. Questions regarding how one understands the world around them amazed thinkers throughout history. This series will take the reader to a journey of different theories and perspectives regarding the mind and mental beings.

'Philosophy of Mind 101' will be mainly divided into the following chapters of the content:

  1. Philosophy of Mind 101: The Inquiry on Mind and Body

  2. Philosophy of Mind 101: What is the Function of the Mind?

  3. Philosophy of Mind 101: Are You A Computing Machine?

  4. Philosophy of Mind 101: "We"; Do We Exist?

  5. Philosophy of Mind 101: Co-operation and Cultural Cognition

  6. Philosophy of Mind 101: Inquiries & Conceptual Theories of Mind

Philosophy of Mind 101: "We"; Do We Exist?

This episode of the series, Philosophy of Mind 101, focuses on the cognition of other minds and the collective comprehension of the cognition processes. Previously on the series, mind-body dualism, behaviourism, functionalism, and computational theory of mind are described, considered critically, and concepts and definitions regarding these approaches are defined and elaborated on. Cognition of other minds occurs through the transfer of mental states through linguistic processes and processes of verbal imagery (Sellars, 2002). Also, cognition of other minds is a topic that requires a carefully balanced approach considering solipsism, idealism, and dualism. A slippery deduction appears as the existence of other minds is considered, such that minds are only thought or imagination of a single mind, because minds are things that cannot be perceived directly. But, awareness of the minds comes through the direct or indirect statements reflecting the existence of minds. In this way, these relations of the cognition of other minds are going to be explained about the cognition of the other minds. Also, the comprehension of the collective , and how it is possible that different minds recognize each other and also form a unity as a third entity as a collective is going to be elaborated in this article.

Sage, Amanda. (January, 2013). "Limbic Resonance".  [Oil Painting]
Figure 1: Sage, Amanda. (January, 2013). "Limbic Resonance". [Oil Painting]

Firstly, the debate around the understanding of a collective mental cognition evolves around the knowledge of other minds. It is necessary to describe how the knowledge of other minds is obtained for building an understanding of the togetherness of different minds. Rejection of the other minds through the perspective of one and only mind that creates the existence comes forth as the obstacle in such a way the information of the existence of other minds seems to be a belief. In this way, solipsism is the idea that the subject of the mind is the only entity that exists, and all other beings are a part of this entity or a product of the processes of this entity, hence everything that exists or may exist are included in and belongs to the mind of the thinker (Russell, 2022). The reason that this inquiry of other minds requires avoiding these slopes of solipsism is that dualism or idealism put forth circular answers to the question of exterior entities such as for dualism the awareness of the other beings comes through the knowledge of the creator and for idealism everything represents the ideal version of itself. Hence, this kind of knowledge of minds or other entities is not actually a type of knowledge but a belief that requires taking the assumption of a type of monism as the basis. As explicated in the previous episodes, dualist approach, briefly explained here, is the approach that takes the mental substance and the corporeal substance as two distinct substances that are separate during the lifetime of the person, but come together as the person dies, hence the soul or the thinking being keeps existing as a part of the creator (Descartes, 2008). Hence, the duality between self and the exterior represents the two distinct worlds through the life of the individual (Popper, 1984). In this way, since the timely separation and conjunction of this duality results in a monistic approach that can identify the exterior and the interior as in a deterministic relation between each other.

The relation of the self is determining any occurrence or being throughout the existence of the self, the interior and the exterior world. (Popper, 1984) Thus, this relation leads to a solipsism that regards the self as source of the information that makes the determinations of the existence. As in the relationship incited in this way, the idealist approach also leads to a similar understanding. The idealist approach, briefly put forth, is the approach that refers to the beings as the reflections of the perfect ideal versions of themselves (Muirhead, 1931). This approach puts the existence of the ideal world to the first place and the material world of the imperfect beings are created through the representations of it. Thinking this approach in terms of cognition and philosophy of mind, the relation between the mind and its relation between the world disrupts in a similar fashion as the dualist approach that the deduction of self as the source of the determination of ideal and representational beings (Muirhead, 1931). Because, according to this approach, the formation of non-ideal representations depend on the relation of them with the ideal objects, and if the relation is considered as they can be determined by logical processes, mind can be misrecognized as the determinator of the relations which leads to the similar solipsism.

Pérez, Silvia. (June, 2016). "Linguistics". [Digital Art].
Figure 2: Pérez, Silvia. (June, 2016). "Linguistics". [Digital Art].

Cognition of other minds occurs through perceiving and recognizing the mental states of others and reproducing certain states relating to the perceived states (Sellars, 2002). This process of reproduction occurs through building of a mutual, similar and general sense-making or comprehension mechanism which is language. Through the relations of the language that is built and the mental states, the exchange of the experiences in a plane of meaning occurs. In this process, cognition of the minds as entities that occur for the other person could happen through self-reflectivity about the mind or the deduction of the occurrence of mental processes through the intuitions.citation To further explicate the exchange of mental states, two different types of statements are needed to put forth that reflect the mental properties to define how the references to mind are made. The former could be regarded as direct statements of mind and the latter could be regarded as the indirect statements of mind. Direct statements of mind are the statements that refer to the mind as the first subject matter at hand. For both types of cognition of minds, metacognition, which is the cognition of the fact that one is cognizing, is a necessity (Carruthers, 2009). Direct statements are about mind, and they signify the mental processes as indicating thinking or in a sense these statements are self-reflexive properties of the mind. Indirect statements of mind are the statements that indicate occurrence of mental processes in the creation of the statement, and that signify the existence of the mind by the interpretation of the statement. Indirect statements of mental processes could be indications of processes such as logical deductions or statements of judgements about the occurring events or entities.

Through these linguistic relations of exchange, mental states are not directly exchanged. The direct statements of mind refer to mind and describe the workings of the mind, but the understanding of the other does not have to reproduce the same image with the image that is in the mind of the other (Davidson, 1974). Hence, the mental states of each party of the process of exchange do not have to be equal. Wittgenstein describes this process with the allegory of mind as a beetle in a box, which exists for everyone, everyone can describe theirs, and one can image the beetle of the others, but does not directly perceive the beetle of others (Wittgenstein, 2010). In this way, the mental states are related in a semantic plane through the meaning. However, their representations in the minds are unique for each party and one cannot directly perceive the mind of the other as the mental processes are private to the individual except for conscious or unconscious indications of mental processes. Considering the uniqueness of these processes for every other mind, the acknowledgement of the uniqueness and familiarity to this uniqueness between different minds create a togetherness for different minds as a different entity of unity (Wegner, 2011). This entity is called ‘we’, as in the plural first person. Thus, the self-cognition, cognition of other minds through language, and recognition of their self-cognition creates this entity of togetherness through uniqueness and differences.

Brinson, S. (June 28, 2017). "Different Minds". [Digital Art].
Figure 3. Brinson, S. (June 28, 2017). "Different Minds". [Digital Art].

Cognition of other minds semantically occur this way as the interpretation of expressions of mind as direct and indirect statements of the other minds (Gallagher, 2020). Since the mental states are unique for different minds, the relation between the minds could be regarded as unique for each relation. However, as asserted in this paper, what is common for this relation of togetherness of 'we' is the experiential relation that connects the semantic interpretations as actual entities of spatiotemporality. Experiental relation could be regarded as intuitive first-hand relation with the phenomenon. 'Usness' is not merely a semantic entity. The conscioousness of this entity unfolds through the actuality of the semantic and spatiotemporal relations of the collective. The actuality of this process is not a positively acquired information as a result of experimentation, but it is rather an experiential component of this togetherness. Actual entities are temporal objects that are not concrete, and exist experientially as different occasions in time (Whitehead, 1919). The experiential phenomenon of usness is a spatiotemporal relation. This relation, described actual entities, occur through the cognition processes. Thus, the actuality of this entity is an experiential phenomenon.

To conclude, the mental processes result in the cognition of the self. The recognition of the self-cognition produces a mental state as the subject (Rogers, 1981). If the mental processes are not put in the role of the source of a determination of the existence or the beings, the other minds can be recognized through the processes of deliverance of mental states. The cognition of mental states and the recognition of the mental states of others through the process of exchange create another subject called ‘we’. The process of mutual recognition occurs through language that enables the transfer of mental states in a unique way to each mind. Therefore, as it is put forth in this article, through the cognition of other minds, ‘we’ exists as an actual entity that encompasses spatiotemporality and semantic relations. The ability to recognize and identify a group of people as a whole is entailed by the cognition of their individual consciousness and collective tendencies. This cognition occurs through the behaviour of the other via the statements concerning the mind and demonstrating intelligence. In this way, 'we' refers to an actual entity rather than an abstract information.

Bibliographic Sources

Carruthers, P. (2009). How we know our own minds: The relationship between mindreading and metacognition”. BEHAVIORAL AND BRAIN SCIENCES.

Davidson, D. (1974). Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Descartes, R., & Moriarty, M. (2008, July 6). Meditations on First Philosophy: with Selections from the Objections and Replies (Oxford World’s Classics) (1st ed.). Oxford University Press.

Gallagher, S. (2020). The Phenomenological Mind (3rd ed.). Routledge.

Muirhead, J., H. (1931). The Platonic Tradition in Anglo-Saxon Philosophy: Studies in the History of Idealism in England and America. London: George Allen and Unwin.

Popper, K., & Eccles, J. C. (1984). The Self and Its Brain: An Argument for Interactionism (1st ed.). Routledge.

Russell, B. (2022). The Problems of Philosophy. Amsterdam University Press.

Wegner, D. Transactive memory: A contemporary analysis of the group mind., Mullen, B., & Goethals, G. R. (2011). Theories of Group Behavior (Springer Series in Social Psychology) (Softcover reprint of the original 1st ed. 1987). Springer.

Whitehead, A. N. (1919). An Enquiry concerning the Principles of Natural Knowledge, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge UK.

Wittgenstein, L., Hacker, P. M. S., & Schulte, J. (2010). Philosophical Investigations. Wiley.

Rogers, T. B., (1981), A model of the self as an aspect of the human information-processing system. In N. Cantor & J. F. Kihlstrom (Eds.), Personality, cognition and social interaction. Hillsdale, NJ.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Pp.193-213

Sellars, W. (2002). The Myth of Jones. In D. Chalmers (Ed.), Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings. Oxford University Press.

Visual Sources

Cover Image: Anonymous. (Unknown). "deep neural connection between gratitude and generosity". [Digital Art]. Retrieved From:

Figure 1: Sage, Amanda. (January, 2013). "Limbic Resonance". [Oil Painting]. Retrieved From:

Figure 2: Pérez, Silvia. (June, 2016). "Linguistics". [Digital Art]. Retrieved From:

Figure 3: Brinson, S. (June 28, 2017). "Different Minds". [Digital Art]. Retrieved From:

Author Photo

Övünç Koşar

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