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Philosophy Of Mind Essay

1. Rene Descartes explored the mysteries of the mind and its origin. The mind and body problem is the enigmatic question of how the immaterial mind can interact with our material bodies. Substance dualism was the theory Descartes proposed to explain this contradiction. Descartes theory of substance dualism states that the world is divided into two distinct parts. The first part consists of the objects of the physical world. The second part of Descartes’ proposed dichotomy is human consciousness. Descartes reasoned that mental processes are so unlike anything else in the world, it must belong to a unique category of its own.

It is composed of an immaterial substance has no relationship to the external world.. Matter and mind existed as two distinctly different substances, yet they interacted with each other with equal reciprocity. How could something that was physical in nature interact with the substance of the mind and vice versa? How could any physical entity give rise to the mind of an immaterial composition? These questions about substance dualism leaves the theory open for criticism because it is difficult to give empirical evidence as to origin and nature of consciousness

2. Reductive materialists believe that matter is the only substance and that phenomena such as consciousness is the result of physical and biological interactions alone. In short, reductionists do not believe in the concept of a soul. They think that science will eventually be able to prove that, for example, consciousness arises strictly from neurological processes of the brain. Eliminative materialists take the reductionist view even further. Eliminativists reject the existence of consciousness altogether.

Consciousness, they believe, is illusory. Eliminativists also think that the field of psychology is invalid because it is based the false assumption that the human mind is real. . A search for any empirical evidence regarding consciousness does not uncover a shred of evidence for its existence. Even if there was scientific proof for the mind’s existence, what could that proof be? Particles of consciousness? Perhaps it would be a field or force such as gravity or the strong nuclear force described by atomic theory. Neither of these seem plausible.

I know that I am here and I experience different feelings, thoughts, and perceive external stimuli. How could I prove it? Of the two, I would be persuaded by the eliminativists if I took a strictly scientific approach to address the problem of consciousness because the mind cannot be quantified and it seems unlikely that it will ever be. However, to deny consciousness exists outright is to doubt my own inner experiences that I am quite certain of. Science does not have a monopoly on the methods to explain everything. Reductionist theory of mind is more reasonable in this case.

Reductionist theories tell us from where consciousness is generated, but offer no explanation as to what consciousness is. It is better to leave the question of consciousness unanswered rather than eliminate it altogether 3. How we retain who we are over time is an age old philosophical question. John Locke’s theory about personal identity posits that the self is neither material nor immaterial. The self resides in consciousness and and is facilitated through the sameness of memory Personal identity transverses time through sameness of memory and the recollection of memories.

For example, a person establishes and maintains an identity by recollection of memories of the self . Thomas Reid criticized Locke’s theory on a few points. Reid said that if identity was contingent on the memory, then what about the gaps in memory that everyone has? When I become older and cannot remember my school years, would I be the same person? No memory would loss of identity. Memory is insufficient to have the role that it does in Locke’s theory, Reid argued. Instead of making personal identity over time, memory has its own role of enabling the individual to know the past.

Locke emphasized that identity was neither material nor immaterial, whereas Reid thought identity was immaterial, simple, but beyond empirical study. Locke invokes too many new and arbitrary ideas about consciousness and PI and I think Reid carries the stronger argument. 4. Hume argues that PI is not a separate entity apart from the rest of mental activity. The mind and the memories it accumulates are only perceptions and they mix in an infinite number of combinations resulting in different mind states.

Identity is a imaginary construct that is the consequence of the accumulation of sensory input recorded in our minds. In other words, PI is an illusion created from the bundle the thoughts, feelings, and experiences accrued from daily life on earth. Hume is skeptical that anybody has a PI. Hume makes an important observation about the constant state of change inherent to the universe. Change is the transformation of one thing into another. Thus any change, even imperceptible ones, would technically make us different from one second to the next and make PI impossible.

Bernard Williams is concerned with the moral implications of Hume’s assertion that PI is non-existent because personal identity is integral to morality. If PI is not real or an illusion, morality might become a trivial notion. Hume’s bundle theory makes good common sense, but this could open the door to a number of frightening possibilities for humanity. Removing PI might lessen the value placed on human life. If we are to believe that PI is fictitious, then individuality (besides appearance) and uniqueness disappears making people just lumps of walking flesh to some.

Hume is a PI eliminativist and I do not agree that personal identity is non-existent or an illusion. 5. In the paper “What Is It Like To Be a Bat? ”, Thomas Nagel argues that a description of subjective experience through a scientific description the brain’s physical processes is impossible. Nagel poses the question, “what is it like to be a bat? ” as a thought experiment to illustrate his point. Bats use sonar to navigate in the dark by the shrieks they make and sense the returning echos. This sonar sense is nothing familiar to us and we could only say with reasonable certainty that it is a perception.

If we try to put ourselves in the place of the bat, we could only guess what it would be like to perceive sonar reflections and that guess would be in the context of the senses we know from our perceptions (sight,sound,etc. ). Even if one could turn themselves into a bat and retain their mental capacity, the experience of having sonar capabilities would still be nothing like what the bat experiences because the framework of our senses and perceptions are so different. In other words, we only could relate bat senses to our human senses and the two are quite incompatible.

This problem of describing the subjective nature of consciousness is not just between different species, but between individual humans as well. My perceptions may be radically different from those of my neighbors. They may be the same, but there is no way to assume their point of view (fortunately). Nagel uses the bat question to illustrate and challenge the materialist/reductionist belief that conscienceless is the result of the electrochemical physical processes of the brain and neuroscience will soon be able to give a scientific description of it.

How could that happen if we could not fully convey the subjective experience a person has to another person in its entirety? Of course we can attempt to describe, write down, and tell others our experiences. This is obviously insufficient because actual experience cannot be conveyed to others. How could I ever describe the color blue to a blind person? Or even to someone who can see? The point of view is critical and only one person can view the world from their point of view. It is beyond even our imagination as to how we could describe a subjective experience.

A new framework of thinking that is unknown to us at the present time is necessary to give a more detailed account of subjective experience, but even then it could not be a complete description. Subjective experience is forever confined the each individuals personal experience. Nagel makes a compelling argument. How will we ever give an objective description of the mind? Maybe we never will be able to. Nagel wisely reminds us that there are limits to human knowledge and the solving mind-body problem may be beyond the limits of human understanding..


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