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The University of Southampton

PHIL6055 Other Minds

Module Overview

For most of us, there is nothing more fundamental than our ability to interact with other people. We cooperate and compete in complex ways. Competing and cooperating in these complex ways requires that we understand and respond to many aspects of each other's mental lives. You can often tell whether your friend is happy or angry, or that they believe - perhaps falsely - that the milk is in the fridge. Yet it is hard to understand how we can secure this knowledge of other's mental lives. We cannot know about others' minds in the way that we know about our own. And there is no simple or universal connection between what is on people's minds and how they behave. Moreover we can often not trace our knowledge to any clear or continuous process of conscious reasoning. In this module we study various theories concerning our knowledge of others' minds. These may include theories as to the epistemology of how we know about others' minds, cognitive theories as to how we come to form the beliefs we do about them, and questions as to how answering the question of how we know about others' minds might relate to our concepts of mentality. Discussion is tied into broader epistemological, cognitive and conceptual questions.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • central theories of how we understand each other's minds.
  • the problems which central theories of how we understand each other's minds face.
  • the relationship between theories of our understanding of each other's minds and broader philosophical questions concerning (e.g.) inductive inference, perception, testimony and cognition.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Undertake independent work, including identifying and using appropriate resources.
  • Work effectively to deadlines
  • Take notes from talks and written materials.
  • Contribute to discussion in a critical but dispassionate way.
  • Express views clearly and concisely
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Interpret, synthesise and criticise complex texts and positions
  • Present ideas clearly and carefully in writing.
  • Debate and criticise ideas and arguments in an even-handed fashion.
  • Articulate and defend your own views regarding the issues the module concerns.


The syllabus may vary from year to year. Topics typically include: - The conceptual problem of other minds - what must our concepts of the mental be like, such that we can acquire and make use of them? - The epistemological problem of other minds - can we know that those around us have minds, or what is on their minds? If so, how can this be? - The cognitive problem of other minds - by what cognitive mechanisms do we form beliefs about the mental lives of others? How do these relate to the mechanisms by which we understand our own minds, and other cognitive mechanisms we employ?

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include : - Lectures - In-class discussion - One-on-one consultation with module co-ordinator Learning activities include: - Attending classes - Contribution to class discussion - Doing independent research for and writing assessed work

Follow-up work20
Preparation for scheduled sessions30
Completion of assessment task40
Wider reading or practice25
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Melnyk, A. (1994). Inference to the Best Explanation and Other Minds. Australasian journal of Philosophy. ,72 , pp. 482-491.

Avramides, A. (2001). Other Minds. 

Russell, Berttrand (1948). Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits. 

Wisdom, J. (1968). Other minds. 


Assessment Strategy

For MA students taking this module, expectations will be significantly higher than those for year 3 undergraduate students attending the same lectures, and the assessment criteria will accordingly by stricter. In particular students will be required to demonstrate extremely high levels of detailed and accurate exposition, critical engagement, organisation and presentation, with scholarship that draws on appropriate primary literature.


Business case or Essay plan


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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