Philosophy of the Mind

Philosophy of the Mind BY Baste193 The Philosophy of Mind Introduction The philosophy of body and mind has been a highly debated topic since its launch in the 17th centaury by Rene Descartes. Since then, many philosophers have written on the subject matter and many theories have emerged as a product of this lively debate. In this essay, I will analyze and critique a selection of philosophers who ponder on the body-mind topic since the 17th century, and ultimately evaluate Paul M. Chruchland’s claim that folk psychology should be eliminated and replaced by completed neuroscience.

For the purpose of this essay it is important to set the defying parameters of folk psychology, as there are 3 working definitions of folk psychology within the philosophical field. Firstly, folk psychology “is used to refer to a particular set of cognitive capacities which include??”but are not exhausted by??”the capacities to predict and explain behavior. ” (Ravenscroft 2010). Secondly, it is a theory that describes behavior in the brain. Finally, folk psychology is a psychological theory of speculation of the mind, one that ordinary people seem to embrace. Ravenscroft 2010). The first definition will be the working definition of folk psychology (from now on FP) throughout this essay. Further, FP maintains that it can, in a sense mind read mental states (desires, fears, sensations etc). Why folk psychology is considered a theory will be elaborated on later in this essay. The section that follows will examine how body-mind problem began. Body-Mind Problem In western thinking, the Greeks (600 BC) were the first to make the distinction between the mind and body.

Nevertheless, French philosopher, mathematician and physiologist Rene Descartes is often granted the title: the father of the mind-body roblem, as he was the first to introduce a distinction. Descartes believed that the body and the mind are different entities. By body he referred to “whatever has a determinable shape and definable location and can occupy a space in such a way as to exclude any other body; it can be perceived by touch, sight, hearing, taste, or smell, and can be moved in various ways, not by itself but by whatever else come into contact with it. (Cottingham, 222). Moreover, Descartes argued that the body or physical substance is located in time and space while the mind or mental substance oints to the mental substance. Today however, some neuroscientists may claim that the thinking self, or mind, can be located in the prefrontal cortex, the selfrationalizing part of the brain. Descartes famous philosophical statement ‘cogito ergo sum’, I think therefore I am, is essentially the leading rationale that led him to assume the line of reasoning that thought alone is inseparable from him “l am, I exist -that is certain. (Cottingham, 223). This argument is not only based on ‘cogito ergo sum’, but also on the deceiving nature of the senses. However before his doubtfulness of the enses’ reliability, Descartes noticed how ideas and thoughts derived from direct conscious senses caused noticeably more vivid thoughts than the thoughts he would conceive through mere dreams and memories, absent this direct conscious sense perception. Dreams and memories only provided him with knowledge, which are the ideas themselves. (Cottingham, 224).

This caused Descartes to momentarily abandon his skepticism of the senses, however as the senses increasingly began to deceive him, his idea that the senses could not be dependent on gradually formed. Descartes tilized arguments such as the phantom limb (feeling pain in a limb that is absent from the body itself). As Descartes developed his Meditations writings, the link between his line of thinking and dualism overlapped progressively. Dualism derived from the Latin word duo, meaning two, unifies the physical to the spiritual, the body to the brain.

Evidence for this dual relationship suggests that the mind controls the body, however the body can influence the rational brain, as to communicate what it should do. For instance, a dry sensation in the throat would indicate thirst and a grumbling sensation in the stomach hunger etc. Lastly, the following quote makes an interesting connection to a recent discovery: “l am now awake, and see some truth; but since my vision is not yet clear enough, I will deliberately fall asleep so that my dreams may provide a true and clearer representation. (Cottingham, 223). Here Descartes’ view of the mind over the body is evident but a connection could also be made to an interesting scientific discovery, Dimethyltryptamine (DMT). DMT is a hormone in the brain, only secreted during birth, dreams, and death. Besides its presence in the brain, DMT is also found in plants. Doctor Rick Strassman researched DMT extensively throughout the late 1900’s and even applied it to test subjects to observe results.

He found that the secretion of DMT causes a state where one’s connection to reality as we know it, the physical laws of nature, are abandoned completely, a state of being where one is confronted by the unconscious mind. “DMT allows contact with dark matter or parallel universes, Strassman argues that DMT must have provided an adaptive advantage to our ancestors in allowing access to alternate states of consciousness and thus perhaps greater problem-solving abilities nd greater creativity. “(Flores 2002). Being qua being perhaps, as Heidegger speculated our far ancestors to be capable of.

Strassman speculates that DMT is secreted from the pineal gland, the same place where Descartes located the soul. (Flores 2002). In summation, Descartes calls all information received through the external world into doubt, while maintaining that mental states as derived through consciousness are free of error. Calling into doubt everything except our mind as Descartes does causes a problem, specifically the in his work An Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy. Mill agrees with the Cartesian view of direct access to ones own mental states, however they differ slightly.

While Descartes believes in “l” as the soul or substance, Mill purports that the “l” is a series of feelings or thread of consciousness. The manner through which Mill maintains that he can know about other minds is an example of folk psychology. Mill argues “We know the existence of other beings by generalization from the knowledge of our own… ” (Cottingham, 242). His logic follows that the body is connected to all possible sensations a person can experience. The bodies Mill bserves around him seem to consist of sensations as well; evident by the similar responses their bodies give to familiar sensations.

These sensations are not represented in his consciousness, as his consciousness is only fueled by the sensations of his own. Therefore Mill infers that other people’s consciousness must exist external to his own consciousness. Everyone then, is subject to an independent world of consciousness, Just like Mill owns his own consciousness. Mill’s senses relay to him the actions and manifestations of other people’s bodies, of which he is aware hat this is a cause of consciousness, as this is the case within his own body. (cottingham, 242243).

Continuing along the topic of consciousness, it is appropriate to introduce David M. Armstrong, who through his work: “What is Consciousness? ” presents an account of different conscious states of mind. He argues against the Cartesian view that we can explain mentality by means of consciousness. To contrary, Armstrong believes we can explain consciousness in terms of mentality, minimal consciousness. (Burg and Hart, 289). Armstrong holds that we are never actually completely unconscious, as even in reamless sleep or under complete anesthesia mild forms of behaviorist sensory stimuli have been observed empirically.

A totally unconscious person can still hold knowledge and beliefs, memories and preferences; these mental states can thus be coined causally quiescent. Nevertheless an unconscious person cannot use mental states; he cant perceive, sense, desire, think or feel. (Burg and Hart, 290). Additionally, Armstrong advocates the existence of three types of consciousness: minimal, perceptual and introspective consciousness. A person waking up from sleep or a hospitalized situation with the answer to math problem is an example of inimal consciousness, faint sensations, therefore not completely unconscious.

The long distant truck driver can demonstrate the second form: perceptual consciousness. Coming to a realization that after a continued period of driving one has been unaware of what he or she had been doing. Perceptual consciousness is active, maneuvering the truck driver safely along the road while his consciousness was disabled “skilled purposive action, guided by perception, but apparently no other mental activity, and in particular no consciousness in some sense of consciousness’, which differs from minimal and perceptual consciousness. Burg and Hart, 293). The last form of consciousness Armstrong advocates is introspective consciousness, “perception-like awareness of current states and activities in our own mind. ” (Burg and Hart, 293). Introspective consciousness however can’t account for the awareness of all current mental states prevailing in our mind. The mental states that be attributed to perceptual and minimal consciousness. (Burg and Hart, 294). Introspective consciousness or awareness is awareness of the self.

It is different from sense perceptions as sense perception focuses on our immediate environment while ntrospective consciousness is the perception of the mind. The purpose of the introspective consciousness is the sophistication of mental process, it is basically the voice in your head that rationalizes decisions, weighs pros and cons etc. The basis of Armstrongs argument of consciousness employs FP theory, making empirical inquires based on beliefs and desires, and vocalizing them through natural language. Nevertheless, there is also some scientific evidence used in his argument.

Something Paul M. Churchland, the eliminative materialist would be content about. FP and Churchland’s claim Folk psychology is the theory used by ordinary people to explain other people’s behavior by means of propositional attitudes such as beliefs and desires. Eliminative materialists aim to erase folk psychology completely and replace it with completed neuroscience. In his work, “Eliminative Materialism and the Propositional Attitudes”, Churchland discusses why FP is a theory, outlines the shortcomings of FP, and proposes results beyond FP. Seeing our common-sense conceptual framework for mental phenomena as a theory brings a simple and unifying organization to most of the major topics in the hilosophy of mind, including the explanation and prediction of behavior, the semantics of mental predicates, action theory, the other-minds problem, the intentionality of mental states, the nature of introspection, and the mind-body problem. Any view that can pull this lot together deserves careful consideration. ” (Burg and Hart, 304).

Churchland makes a very fair point here; over the years FP has contributed by and large to success in terms of understanding our mind. However, since the past few decades there have been huge advances in neurosciences. Today we are merely at an immature phase of neuroscience; much of he brain remains undiscovered. Yet taking into account the current trend of development and predicting sustainability of this trend, heading towards a completed neuroscience seems ever more likely. This is where Churland’s theory of completed neuroscience stems from.

Churland further criticizes the shortcomings of FP in the following manner. Firstly, he believes FP resides in a stalemate, he doesn’t recognize the potential growth within the field of FP, as neuroscience has developed more in the last 30 years than FP has in the past 2600 years. (Burg and Hart, 308). Secondly, FP fails to explain certain fundamental mental processes such as sleep, nature and dynamics of mental illness, the faculty of creative imagination, or the ground of intelligence differences between individuals. ” (Burg and Hart, 308).

Another central limitation of FP in this regard, is its inability to address the process of learning. Supporters of FP would respond to these accusations by denying that the above processes fall short of the purpose of FP. I believe they contradict themselves, as Churchland could easily overrule the former point by stating that a completed euroscience can explain some of these phenomena and perhaps all or more in the future, eliminating the necessity of FP entirely. Churchland’s final critique of FP is on well-established theories within related fields.

Related fields like evolutionary theory, biology, and neuroscience. (Burg and Hart, 308). In the latter part of Churchland’s work, he provides some insight into what a completed neuroscience could provide. He builds on Chomskys thesis regarding the human mind and its abstract structures capable of learning and more importantly human natural language. “Natural languages, it turns out, exploit only a very lementary portion of the avail- able machinery, the bulk of which serves far more complex activities beyond the ken of the propositional conceptions of FP. (Burg and Hart, 319). Therefore a language much more complex than our natural language could be learned by our innate systems. A sophisticated new language could enhance the understanding and communication of mental states. This new meta- language, termed “??bersatzen” by Churchland, would surpass the natural language we use today in terms of efficiency, depth and understanding, eliminating the propositional attitudes that FP maintains. Burg and Hart, 320).

A second possibility Churchland outlines concerns the corpus callosum, a giant cable of neurons connecting the left and right hemisphere. The two hemispheres exploit the corpus callosum to communicate and relay impulses back and forth. In some rare cases, the corpus callosum has to be removed from the brain; this results in tremendous behavioral deficits. Yet people who are born naturally without the corpus callosum show no behavioral deficits, the hemispheres of these people have learned to adapt, to communicate by alternative means, unbound by the corpus allosum. Burg and Hart, 320). Churchland made the following connection: if two hemispheres can function independently and exchange information absent a corpus callosum without showing any behavioral defects, then why shouldn’t two distinctively different brains be capable of the same. This would naturally require some sort of device, surgically implanted in two brains that could communicate via waves. This would enable people to communicate and coordinate behavior at the same speed as two hemispheres would, much faster than the speed of natural language,