Monday, February 4, 2008

Philosophy of the Mind and Problems for Mind Body Materialist

Q: What is the Philosophy of the Mind?
A: Philosophy of the Mind is a discipline within Philosophy that seeks to understand what exactly the mind is. Philosophy of the Mind seeks to deal with problems that are associated with the fact (or some would say the appearance) that we have a mind.

There are basically two different views on what the mind is. These basic views are called 1.) mind-body-dualism and 2.) mind-body-materialism. When I say that these are the two basic views, I mean that they are fundamentally two basic views. Within view 1.) and 2.) there are differing views on how everything works out, but basically all of the views fall within category 1.) and 2.) There have been some monistic (views that state mind and body are neither material nor non-materical) views. But these views either reduce to 1.) or 2.), or they just dont make sense (at least as far as I can tell).

Anyhow the big question is this: Can our mind and those things that are thought to go along with it (thought, subjective-perception, qualitative feelings) be explained holistically in physical or materialistic categories. Now Christians will typically say no and that we have a soul. The materialist will say that all of our mental activity can be explained in physical or materialistic ways.

Below I have provided an arguement against mind body materialism. There are certainly other arguments, but I just read this particular argument and I find it pretty forceful. I have written a kind of rough sketch of the argument. The argument is taken from a paper written by philosopher Joseph Levine called "Materialism and Qualia: The Explanatory Gap." Joseph if you read this and I did not do a good job of representing your argument then I (Stephen) take responsibility.

Problems for The Mind Body Materialist

Consider 3 statements

1.) Pain is the firing of C-fibers

2.) Heat is the motion of molecules

3.) To be in pain is to be in state F

A.) The Mind Body Materialist (MBM) must argue that 1.) & 3.) are intelligible.

B.) If MBM is true then 1.), 2.) & 3.) will be true necessarily and cannot possibly be false.

C.)Is it easily granted that 2.) is true and understandable given

2` The phenomenon we experience through the sensations of warmth, heat & cold are the motion of molecules.

D.)It is epistemologically possible that someone be the state F or C-fibers firing and not be in the state of pain.

E.) It is at least epistemologically possible because we do not have the explanatory gap in 1.) & 3.) like we do with 2.) given the fact of 2`.

Thus we have a mind body problem for materialist. How is it that we have a subjective qualitative feel (or at least to some the appearance)? We don’t have an explanatory fill in (like 2`).

While this does not prove MBM false metaphysically, it does still provide us with a sufficient reason to doubt MBM to be true.


J*Rob said...

The only pressure on physicalism seems to be from phenomenological concerns. (Other than the increasing acceptance of abstract entities such as numbers, but I'm not convinced that there will be an attempt to reconcile that with physicalism any time soon because abstract entities are causally inert.) I connect this with the rising interest of militant atheists in Eastern thought (particularly Buddhism), because the East offers transcendence to a physicalist context on phenomenological grounds.

SS&SG said...

J rob,
There are also epistemological problems, but then again epistemology is not far from phenomenology.
There are also problems within the area of ethics. Physicalistic ethics either 1.) commit the naturalistic fallacy or 2.) the logically lead to a denial of ethics. Also, entailed in that is the fact that Physicalism leads to, becuase of its absolute non-personal determinism, a lack of ethical responsibility. This same problem also causes an epistemological problem.