January 14 , 2014
What is a mind?
• Mind as a soul
• Mind as part of the body (an emergent property)
o A mind is present when a body is organized in a certain way
o Minds no longer exist when the body dies
• A mind is a brain
How can we figure out what the mind is?
• What sort or philosophical investigations can we do to figure out what the mind is?
• What sort of scientific investigations can we do to figure out what the mind is?
• What role does Philosophy play in answering such questions?
o Most philosophers theorize about what a mind is, or about the relationship
between the mind and the body
o Experimental philosophy and Cog.Sci. theorize about what the mind is, but also
carry out studies on the brain in an attempt to determines what the mind is
o Studies in science are usually not in conflict with many contemporary versions of
o Philosophers don’t ignore evidence – which is a common misconception
Philosophers take the evidence from science and decide what to make of
• Ie. How should the findings be interpreted
o Eg. some studies show eating breakfast is good for
increasing your metabolism, while others show that there is
What do you do with the evidence and how do you
o In Descartes time, science was not as advanced as it is
Need to consider arguments that were relevant in
the time he was writing
Also think about whether studies done today
support this theory
• Born in France (1556-1650)
• Philosopher (metaphysician), mathematician, scientist
• Major works: Discourse on the Method, Principles of Philosophy, and Passions of the
• In his day, he was known as one of the best mathematicians and as a philosopher who
brought about a new form of metaphysics
• After his death, his philosophical theories were widely discussed and he remained very
o In the 18 century, his theory on philosophy remained influential
o Remembered, and still is, for his method of doubt and the formulation of the
mind-body problem o In his schooling, he was exposed to the ancient philosophers (Plato, Aristotle,
o Very religious and showed this in his philosophical work
• Descartes believed that mind and body are two distinct substances that are intimately
o Mind: mental, non-divisible, non-extended
o Body: physical, divisible, extendable
Where do experiences happen?
• Do experiences occur in the mind, body, or both?
o If someone pinches your arm, where do you feel pain?
What about phantom pains?
Bodily pains may not necessarily need to have a corresponding mental
sensation and vice versa
• For Descartes, mental states are no spatial ->experiences do not need to have an exact
o Bodily states are spatial
o Mental states are qualitative – recall our discussion last class on qualia
Neuroscientists cannot see your qualitative experience
What are the implications of this on ‘mind’?
o Qualities of conscious experiences are unlike qualities of material objects
o Mental qualities appear to differ from material qualities
o From this, one can draw the conclusion that mental qualities are not qualities of
• For Descartes, the knowledge that we have our stages of minds are direct and
o The knowledge that we have of our mental states are unchangeable in a way that
our knowledge of material objects are not
o For Descartes, we cannot doubt out mental states
You cannot doubt that you are thinking a thing
o The fact that you are a thinking thing affirms your existence
“I think, therefore I am”
• The mind is:
o 1. Transparent: you have direct access to your mind
I you are in a particular state of mind, you know and cannot doubt that
you are in the state
o 2. Incorrigible: being in a mental state is thinking that you are in that state
o Even if you deny that the mind is transparent, you cannot deny that only you
have access to your mental state and experiences
Thomas Nagle, “What is it like to be a bat?”
• Mental items are private, material objects are public
o Material – spatial, public, material qualities
o Mental – non-spatial, private, distinctively (different from
one another’s) mental qualities
Everyone can observe material objects and have direct access to it
No one can observe your qualitat