When we view the philosophy of mind we encounter many problems, the main being that although there are many theories on this topic it is impossible to prove any of them and thus this problem is still unresolved. How is it that we can understand more about the universe and science than ever before but do not understand what it is that enables us to understand, that is the mind? To answer this rather complicated problem there are many solutions, or theories, each with their good points but none which are totally convincing, though some seem more though than others. These theories are Dualism, the belief that mind and matter are different substances, behaviour ism, the belief that for every mental state you can observe a behaviour, physicalism, the belief that mind is brain, and functionalism, the belief that is something puts out the right outputs or acts like it as a mind then it is conscious. Added to this are the problems of whether other people have minds, and what constitutes personal identity. Each of these areas has its own arguments for and against and, it seems, is highly criticised. The first theory in the philosophy of mind is dualism, which in basic terms, is the belief that mind is a different substance to matter.
Dualists use Leibniz’s law, if A = B then A must have the same properties as B, to argue that because matter is subject to the physical sciences while mind is not, then they must be different ‘stuff’s. Mind and matter are also different in other ways. Firstly we can, to a point, locate a piece of matter in time and space and observe that piece of matter. But mind is totally different, you can’t locate a though and it’s generally believed that the mind is private and can’t be observed.
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So you can easily conclude that mind is different to matter because they have different properties, A doesn’t equal B. And because mind is some kind of substance, it can’t be nothing, it only fits that there is two kinds of substances, mind and matter. However although dualism is the most straight forward of the theories it is also one of the most criticised views. Critics of dualism generally use the problem of interaction to deny this view.
Under this two bits of matter can interact because they are the same substance, but two fundamentally different substances, such as mind and matter, could not possibly interact. The problem is they clearly do interact. Dualists argue that is has not yet been proven that tow different substances couldn’t interact and that we shouldn’t use a lack of understanding to criticise dualism. Science is far form explaining everything.
Another argument against dualism is the masked man fallacy. Under this argument you could be at a party and see a masked man, who is actually you ” re good friend John. You know who John is but you don’t know who the masked man is. According to Leibniz’s law John and the masked man would have different properties and therefore could not be the same person, even though they are. This shows that we may know X (John in this case) under one description but not under another, and makes us se that some of the things we consider properties of an object are to do with how we perceive that object, (Mary thinks apples taste bad but Lucy doesn’t, ) and are not actual properties. You could say many of the properties that differentiate mind form matter could be described in this way, for instance we view minds as private but someone with telepathy would argue that minds are easily observable.
So maybe by saying that mind is a different substance to matter we are making a category mistake. Could it be possible that mind and matter are the same substance, which has mental and physical properties? Other arguments to Dualism include the other theories themselves, including behaviour ism. Behaviorists claim that for every mental state there is a behaviour which accompanies it. Some go further to claim that all mental states are in fact behaviour al states. This talk of the mental as if it doesn’t exist appears to be irrational, yet weak behaviorists do not try to claim that we do not have these mental ‘sensations’. Strong behaviorists on the other hand claim there is no such thing as mental sensations or consciousness.
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The argument behaviorists use to support their theory is the fact that it is virtually impossible to describe a mental life to someone without mentioning behaviour’s, how can you describe happiness without describing what makes you happy? In connection to this is the principle of verification, which says something is only meaningful if it can be verified by a logical relation to other words or concepts. And as the only way to talk of the mental that makes sense is in terms of behaviour then surely it is correct to say that the mental is simply behaviour. As behaviour ism has it’s attractions it’s easy to see why it may have supporters but it also has some powerful counter-arguments. Those opposed to behaviour ism believes it fails because it leaves out a defining feature of mind, qualia, the way things feel or appear to us. Once against the weak behaviorists are against denying this, but they do claim that it has no part in the meaning of mind. But how can the defining feature of something have nothing to do with what it means? Perhaps it is a more compelling argument to ask what the behaviour al manifestations of imagining a square or day dreaming are? As there are none behaviorists would behaviorists would tell us that it is impossible to imagine a square.
Yet they’d have to have some pretty to strong arguments to convince us that the way we think or feel is incorrect. To go further in the arguments against behaviour ism, behaviorists would say that if someone is acting in pain then they must be in pain, the behaviour al manifestations show this. Similarly someone in pain but acting like they ” re not could not be in pain. Surely it is hard to believe something that can not distinguish between acting something and experiencing it. It is also possible to criticise one of the arguments used to support behaviour ism, the principle of verification. By its own criteria this principle is meaningless, it itself can not be verified.
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This causes very shaky foundations to build upon. Perhaps behaviorists are onto something when they say we can’t talk about the mental without mentioning behaviour, but it’s surely going too far to say the mental is nothing but behaviour. Another of these theories is physicalism; quite simply the claim that mind is in fact brain. According to supporters there is some overwhelming empirical evidence to support this theory.
According to physicalisms exhibit A is the fact that Dualism has never given a convincing argument to how mind and matter can interact if they are two different substances. Exhibit B says that it is much easier to say the mind is physical than to say the world is mental. The final exhibit is the fact that mind and brain is intimately related causing it to be easy to say that this is because mind is brain. Looking at the meaning of the words the question is asked, how can they be the same when the words mean such different things? Physical ists say its all to do with the extensions and intensions of nouns, the may not have the same meanings but they are still the same.
The link between mind and brain is very close, and the claim that there an be no though without brain activity is a cogent argument, however it is not possible to draw form this the conclusion that mind is brain. The final theory is functionalism, the view that something is conscious if it can produce the right outputs in reply to inputs. Functionalists believe that they build upon the ‘lessons’ learnt form the other theories to make their own and a concept for detecting minds in other things. The theory that something is conscious if it produces intelligent outputs does not require any special mental substance, is based on what is observable, gives a role to brain and includes qualia so surely it must be right.
However Searle and his famous Chinese argument would disagree. Searle says that if you put a man inside a room receiving Chinese symbols on pieces of paper, consulting a book and drawing Chinese symbols in return, to the outside would appear to be understanding Chinese, as the papers coming in are questions and those going out contain the answers. And yet at no time in this process is an understanding of Chinese required, which shows that functioning is not a satisfactory basis for mind. Now that we are done with the theories we can move onto the problem of other minds. The question in this area is how can we ever know if other beings have minds? We believe that other people have minds because they act similar to us, walk, talk, laugh, etc, then they too must have a mind, but this is a weak argument. We shouldn’t be generalizing from our own case but what other way do we have to case other minds upon? Is there any solution to this problem? Putnam argues that others must have minds because it explains human behaviour and no rival theory can explain it as simply.
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But once again this is a weak foundation to base an argument on. The problem with other minds is that we can only know for certain that we have a mind, and just have to assume that everyone else does as well. The last problem to be addressed in the philosophy of mind in personal identity, which matters to us because having a mind is the hallmark of being a person. But what are the conditions of person A at one time being the same person as person B at another.
Some would argue the continuation o memory, that if person A remembers enough of person B’s memories then they are the same. Yet a person suffering amnesia would be a different person under this, while somebody who could read minds and gain the memories would become that person. So basing identity on memory is not enough. Some claim that once we add intention, personality and preferences to the mix then it becomes enough of a basis.
Changes can happen as long as they are not sudden changes, but are gradual changes over time. Other would argue that a person is the same if there is a continuation of the body. This is referred to as animalism. Yet in days when transplant are common the question is raised for this, how much of the body must stay the same. And which pasts must remain the same.
Must defenders of this view would say the brain is crucial, it controls thoughts. But the if you admit that the brain is important then why not just come out and say that consciousness is important, as it is the brain that controls this. As you can see you can debate this topic for ages, but for now it’s enough to claim that it is still unresolved. The last theory we are viewing today is a made up one, which I dub Rebecca lism. This is what I personally believe, which I am warning may seem quite confusing. To start with our theories, I lean heavily towards dualism, but more towards property dualism, the belief that mind and matter are the same substance but with mental and physical characteristics.
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This requires no complicated second substance or problem of interaction. I disagree with behaviour ism, and I must add had done so in my mind without displaying any behaviour before I typed this. So by disagreeing in such a way I am, to myself, disproving this argument. I do agree thought hat it is hard to describe the mental without referring to behaviour. But I must say for the principle of verification, this principle is useless in backing up an argument if under its own criteria it is useless. In response to physicalism I acknowledge that for mental activities to occur there must be brain activity, but it seems highly improbable that mind is brain, and I can not bring myself to believe this.
When I think of my mind I do not always think of it as being located behind my eyes and nose, and between my ears. Perhaps it is not located anywhere at all, or at least not a constant location. The other argument I am against wholly is functionalism, for I can not put my belief in something that would say a computer could think, even though at times I believe my own machine is out to get me. I must say thought hat I believe that other being have minds, I’d be pretty lonely if I thought otherwise. If their minds are like my own I do not know, but surely they must be similar due to similarities in everything else. I could say that I know others have mind because they tell me so, but if I was to go along the liens that they didn’t, or they were just figments of my imagination, then I could say that I am just imagining them saying they have minds, them saying it doesn’t prove it.
I could just as easily say I have brown eyes when in fact they are blue. So, even though I assume that others have mind, thanks to this class, there is now a slight doubt in my mind as to this. As to what I believe in the case of personal identity, I myself am not quite sure what it is I think. I believe a continuation of the brain is important, as well as behaviour and preferences. The problem is even I can not be sure that I am the same Rebecca as the one who wrote the previous paragraph just two minutes ago, not for certain. I believe I am her, have her body and her thoughts, but how can I be sure? I think I’ll just assume then that it may be enough for a combination of animalism; the brain must be the same, as well as a continuation of memories preferences and personality.
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I couldn’t be that same Rebecca of tow minutes ago if I were to like marshmallows and she didn’t. To conclude this essay it must be said that each of the theories, dualism, behaviour ism, physicalism, and functionalism are complicated, and all of which are believed by different people. Each as arguments for and against and is quite believable and none are able to be proven. The problem of other minds and personal identity is still unresolved, as is the entire philosophy of mind. This topic will probably remain unresolved for some time.