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Group 1 Questions.docx

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Boston College
PHIL 4406

Group 1 Questions 1. What is Spinoza’s solution to the mind/body problem? What is Leibniz’s’? The mind/body problem among the rationalists is an argument trying to determine what everything on earth is built of and made from. Spinoza was a natural monist, meaning he believed that everything was made up of one substance and one substance only. The one substance Spinoza hypothesized that everything was made up of was God (you can also call this substance nature). Everything can be broken down into smaller and smaller components but once you hit the level of God, it cannot be broken down any further. Unlike Descartes who believed that everything is made up of either mind or body, Spinoza believed that God is an attribute of both mind (thought) and body (extension). This view that everything is made up of God, sounds very similar to some of the Roman Catholic beliefs that God is everywhere and in everything. At the same time however, Spinoza’s view goes against the church’s views. Spinoza reasons that since everything is made up of God and God is special, everything should be special. If everything is special, then nothing is special anymore, and if nothing is special, then God cannot be special. Spinoza’s natural monist view of what things are made up of poses one problem. If everything is made up of the same thing, then is follows that everything should have some of the same basic properties. God is a thinking being, therefore; anything that is made up of God or that comes from God (in Spinoza’s case, everything) also should be able to think and perceive. Thus, we create the trash can that can think. You cannot really prove that a plastic trash cannot think but common sense tells us that it should not be able to. Spinoza’s monism creates this problem of everything, biotic and abiotic, being able to perceive things. Leibniz’s solution to the mind/body problem also falls under the category of substance monism. Leibniz too, believes that everything is made of the same substance, however; to Leibniz, that substance is called a monad. Monads are nature’s building blocks and very simple substances. Leibniz defines them as modes of being. Both mind and body are only modes of being and God himself would also be a monad. Leibniz, with his theory of substance monism, also solves Spinoza’s problem of the thinking trash can. He claims that even though everything is only made up of monads, the monads that make up a thing can differ in one of two ways. There is one type of monad that can perceive itself and other things and one type of monad that cannot perceive things. The monads that comprise abiotic objects like rocks, and trash cans would consist entirely of the non-thinking monads. Our physical bodies would also consist of these non-thinking monads, but our minds and our sensory organs would contain some of the thinking monads. Leibniz expands on his substance monism by claiming that monads are internally programmed. God controls and determines how and when monads interact with each other, thus taking away free will. 2. In what sense do the empiricists become increasingly skeptical? Of the three empiricists we studied, each becomes increasingly skeptical as they try to prove themselves more of an empiricist than the last. Locke, the first notable empiricist, begins by being skeptical of how we gain knowledge. One of Locke’s first arguments articulately argues against the possibility of innate ideas. Previously, the rationalists assumed that innate ideas existed in all of us. These innate ideas had to be drawn out by an outside stimulus (experience). Locke believes that there cannot be such things as innate ideas or else we would know what exactly our innate ideas are. He says that both children and idiots, having little to no knowledge at all show no signs
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