Philosophy 1301

In this topic we will learn about Descartes theory that the Mind and the Body are distinct and separate ‘substances’. On his view, there are only two things that exist in the Universe: the mental and the physical, and everything is made up of only one or the other. The ‘Mind-Body’ Problem is the problem of how these two are supposed to interact (since the mental, or Mind, is a non-spatial thing).

What is consciousness? Is the mind the same thing as the brain? If not, what is the mind? What are thoughts? How does consciousness fit into our world of material/physical objects?

 

Dualism versus Physicalism:

Descartes is known as a Dualist: he believes that two substances exist, Mind and Body (or physical stuff). other thinkers reject this idea, and say there is only one substance or basic ‘stuff’ in the world, and that is physical, or Body. ‘Physicalists’, like Smart, believe there is no real ‘mental stuff’ in the universe: everything is really only just ordinary physical stuff like bodies, atoms, particles and mass. What do you think?

Required reading:

1) Descartes, Meditation 6 

Actions(Excerpted from, Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy, Meditations 1 & 2, 1641, open-source text at: http://www.earlymoderntexts.com/authors/descartes )

2) J. J. C. Smart, ‘Sensations and Brain Processes’

Actions, The Philosophical Review, Vol. 68, No. 2 (Apr., 1959), pp. 141-156 Published by: Duke University Press on behalf of Philosophical Review, Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2182164 . First 5 pages only are required.

3)  Frank Jackson: Mary’s Room thought experiment.

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Supplementary Reading:

What is Physicalism? (an excerpt from the SEP)

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The Physicalist View of the Minds

An overview of the Mind-Body Problem, including a Refutation of Physicalism: ‘Mary’s Room’ thought-experiment.

Assessment:

Prompt: Descartes believes that there exists both ‘mind’ and ‘matter’ (or ‘body’ – same thing). Smart believes that there is only ‘matter’, or the material/physical world, and everything else, including thoughts, sensations and other apparently ‘mental’ processes are really just physical processes at bottom. Which view do you find more plausible? Explain why.

Please write a minimum 200 word response to the prompt; and then write a 100 word response to one of your fellow students’ posts.

required videos to watch

 
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