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PHL240 Jan 30 and Feb 6 notes.docx

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Jim John

January 30, 2013 Nagel and Williams  Nagel – non science fictional version of a thought experiment  Data about the human brain – brain divided into 2 cerebral hemispheres (left and right), connected by a band of tissue  Left controls reading and writing  See section 2 and the footnotes for these details  Split brain experiments  Information flow between the 2 brain hemispheres stops when the band of tissue connecting them is severed  Page 232 – Nagel describes some of the things observed  Split brain patient cannot distinguish a continuous from a discontinuous line  Nagel points out many the researchers took the data to show that these patients had 2 independent streams of consciousness  Each hemisphere seems to have its own impulses to act, perceptions, experiences, separate chain of memories  Splitting of 2 distinct streams of consciousness  Sperry‟s thought is that we enjoy a single stream of consciousness, but if we were to have our brain split we would have 2 separate streams of consciousness without knowing that we do  Is this interpretation plausible or correct?  How should we characterize what‟s happening to these patients with split brains?  Nagel says there are 5 possibilities:  1. The patients have a mind associated with the left hemisphere, and no mental activity at all associated with the right hemisphere (non-verbal hemisphere) – verbal powers indicative of mentality  2. The patients have a mind associated with the left hemisphere and associated with the non-verbal right hemisphere are events of degraded mental activity that have nothing to do with the mind  Neither a coherent mind  3. The patients have two minds, one with the left hemisphere, and another with the right (which can neither speak nor write)  4. Patients have a single mind that derives from both hemispheres in a disassociated way  5. Patients have a single normal mind in everyday life (without experimentation), which then splits into 2 as per option 3 when experimented on  Page 230-231  The philosophical problem is that none of the 5 options looks at all plausible (Nagel)  What‟s wrong with them? Nagel says 1 and 2 are no good because suppose the left hemisphere failed  If that happened we‟d have no difficulty ascribing a non-verbal mind and non- verbal activity to the right hemisphere  If the left went bad the right would still be there (rational behavior could still exist, just not with verbal behavior)  Number 3 is no good either because how can there be 2 minds when the 2 hemispheres are so well integrated in everyday life?  Doesn‟t see how given the fact that the patients behave normally outside the experiment, that we could say they have 2 distinct minds – maybe a single mind disassociated with itself?  Nagel says for number 4 it‟s extremely difficult to conceive what it‟s like to be a being with such a disassociated mind  Can‟t imaginatively put myself in the place of the patients with mind content at war with each other  In number 5, for such a drastic change to occur the experiment would have to bring up some kind of internal change in the patient, and it doesn‟t  The experiments tinkered with the relations between the brain and central nervous systems stand in relation to the environment  Nagel‟s cases against these options differ, for number 4 it is based on the inability to imagine such things, number 5 is based on the assumption that facts about conscious viewpoints are fixed by intrinsic features of the brain  Page 242 towards the end  “The fundamental problem of understanding these cases in mentalistic terms, we take ourselves as paradigms of psychology unity but we are unable to project ourselves into their lives”  We find ourselves baffled – this reveals that a concept of a unified self becomes problematic  Maybe we are unknowingly internally disassociated  Notion of consciousness is moving viewpoint in the world  Ground for non-science fictional case for Locke‟s body swapping case  Switching brain hemispheres  Williams  Clash of worldviews backing Williams  Family of theories all inspired by Locke‟s discussion (psychological continuity theory of consciousness)  You are an ongoing stream of psychological continuity (stream of consciousness – you last as long as it lasts) – Lockean spirit  Williams says persons are their living bodies, not ongoing streams of consciousness  Personal identity over time consists in bodily identity over time  Tries to undermine a key element of the psychological continuity theory  Compare a wallet to the nation of Canada  What it means for the wallet to persist through time is that its body remains the same  What it means for Canada to persist through time? Via certain things or substances  There is no Canada substance – it persists in virtue of an ongoing stream of relations  As long as there are some people related in certain ways (stand in legal, political, socio-economic etc. relations)  Locke‟s views says that people are like Canada (you‟re around as long as something can post awareness)  Williams says this is wrong, we are a thing – we persist through time like the wallet  This is the clash of views February 6, 2013  Story 1 underlines sequence of events, suggests that 2 diametrically opposed views of personhood could work  Williams is betting on the body theory of story 2, more reflective of the underlying truth of what we are  Body theory of personhood and animal theory are different, but for Williams‟ purpose this doesn‟t matter  Williams wants to show that these thought experiments are not as persuasive as they seem  There are only 3 options on the table  2 different ways of telling the same story that implicates 2 different theories  Op
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