The myth of the hidden
Dissertation, University College London (2009)
Traditionally, it has been supposed that both minds and mental states are unobservable. If the mind and its contents are hidden in this way, our knowledge of others' mental lives would have to be indirect. In this thesis, I argue that it is not plausible-to suppose that all of our knowledge, of others mental lives is indirect. It is more plausible to suppose that sometimes, we can perceive others' mental states. Thereby, we can sometimes come to have direct, perceptual knowledge of when another is in some mental state’ The hypothesis that we can sometimes perceive each others' mental states is plausible because it is possible, and because if it were true, it would bestexplain our knowledge of others' mental states. It is possible to perceive others' mental states, because others' behaviours need not conceal those states. Rather, what behaviour sometimes does is to reveal another's mental state. When behaviour acts this way, knowledge of another's mental state need not rest on any beliefs about their behaviour. If others' behaviour could inform us of their mental states only in so far as it could be our evidence of their mental states, then the evidence it would provide could not be sufficient to secure all the knowledge we take ourselves to have about others’ mental states. If so, the claim that all we have to go on in discovering how others think or feel is the evidence of their behaviour could not hope to explain that knowledge. So, only if it were true that others' behaviour sometimes enabled us to perceive their mental states could we adequately explain all our knowledge of their mental states. For these reasons, I claim that the hiddenness of the mental is a myth.