How do we know that the world we perceive is the same as other people? How do we know that what I call “red” looks the same to another person? How do we know that other people are hearing the same music, smelling the same scent or even feeling the same emotions that we do? We infer from other people’s behaviours that fundamentally, we are all the “same”. We see other people enjoy the same things as us or think along the same lines as us, then we empathise.
However, as human beings, we are unable to read other people’s minds. All we can do is interpret people’s speech and behaviour to try gauge what they are thinking. This means that technically speaking, we can never truly know that other people have minds of their own. For all you know, the person in front of you could be an automaton that is programmed to respond to their environment in a manner similar to you.
As discussed above, we subjectively know (or assume) that other people have minds of their own, given what we observe. But then what of animals, artificial intelligence or even comatose people? How can we know that they have a conscious mind? The short answer is that there is no black-or-white answer, but it sure is an interesting philosophical discussion to ponder – one which has been pondered for millennia. This is the problem of other minds.
We cannot objectively “see” or read into another conscious mind. However, we can approximate what that mind is like from the person’s behaviour – their words and their actions. This is almost like sketching an animal that you have never seen just by listening to someone giving you an account of it. Therefore, if you want to get to know someone – to understand their mind, their essence, their soul – all you can do is talk with them, sketching out the finer details as the conversations get deeper and deeper.