Philosophy 7 – Philosophy of Mind
Complete Lecture Notes
Lecture Notes 03.29.2011
A brief introduction to the four problems we;; be examining in this course
Then some points on course administration
1. How does the mind relate to the body
Each of us presumably has a amind and a body. That is, each of us does
things like think, feel, desire, imagine, feel pain, so forth. The sorts of
things we tend to think are characteristic of having a mind. at the same
time everybody has a physical body. Notice you can touch your body, you
are aware of It as any other physical body. Your body is made of the same
stuff as physical objects in the world. We are made of the same atoms
everything else is. More over our bodies also have the properties of any
other physical objects, mass density shapes. We obey the same physical
laws. So our bodies are just physical stuff in the universe, no different in
kind than anything else.
Now how are the mind and body related. Clearly they‟re intimately
related. The things we think are a result of things that happen to the body,
and the bodies actions are a consequence of our thoughts, things
happening in our mind.
Suppose I decide to eat chocolate. We can easily describe the physical
process this involves, chewing and dissolving on the tongue. A
straightforward physical reaction. However something else happens when
I eat chocolate. Theres the taste of the chocolate. This is a different
phenomenon than everything happening in the tongue and in the nervous
This can go the other way as well. I can start by forming an intention to
move my arm. Then my arm moves. Presumably, I caused this physical
action by forming an idea in my mind. clearly theres an interaction
between mind and body.
This seems to suggest a tight ant intimate relationship between mind and
body. In fact you might hink this is evidence that the mind is just a part of
the body. Just one of the many parts that make up a human body.
Many of us are attracted to the view that the mind is in a sense contained
in the brain. Theres a lot of evidence to support this. Theres an intuitive appeal to thinking that the mind is the brain, or the brain plus the central
Look, when I feel a pain or taste chocolate, those things just are things
happening in my brain or to my brain. When we talk about feeling a pain
or tasting chocolate, those are just different words for talking about
different states that the brain experiences.
Another popular idea is that the mind is distinct from the body, an
independent entity like a soul. These people think that the body is
physical, while the mind is spiritual or intellectual. The mind could
potentially exist without the body, and vice versa.
What‟s an attractive reason for thinking this? So you can believe
that your mind will live on after your body dies.
If your mind is part of your body, then it has to die when your body dies.
However if they‟re separate, then theres a chance you, your mind, can live
on after your body dies.
2. What is consciousness, and how do we fit the fact of consciousness into reality.
What is consciousness? Its difficult to describe, but we‟re all familiar
with the feeling. all of the phenomena we were describing depended on
consciousness. For each of these mental states, like thirst for example,
theres something that its like for me to feel thirsty. We all have an interior
life, a point of view from which we have experiences. Although its
difficult to describe them, we are aware of these experiences, and there are
facts about these experiences. Its different to taste strawberries than it is to
taste hocolate. There seems to be a set of facts about conscious
How do we accommodate those facts in our view of the world? In
principle, for something to be real, many people have to be able to
experience it. Imaginary objects are only privately available.
Now theres a problem. It seems like facts about what pineapple taste like
when you eat it are equally imaginary. After all, this is a private
experiences. The facts of what it taste like for you are unique for different
people. We can make comparisons, but the actual sensations seem to be
tied to our own point of view, making it impossible to share them with
others. This is why these sensations are not objects in the real world, in the
sense. One solution is to deny that there is consciousness, that really there is
nthing that it „is like‟ to have these experiences. The taste of pineapple
isn‟t on the list of things that really exist in the world.
Another solution: trying to think about the real in a way that allows for the
possibility of inherently private facts, like the fact about what pineapple
tastes like for you.
3. What unifies a single mind, over time and at any given time.
Right now I am having various sensations, visual and tactile and auditory. Did
you ever wonder what makes it thee case that all your different experiences,
feelings, and percetions belong to the same mind? are they part of the same mind,
or are they part of just a cluster of beliefs or ideas.
A natural answer – all of my mental life, visual percetions,, auditory perceptions,
all come from my brain. They are related to one specific organism, with a single
As initially attractive as that answer appears, somepeople will deny it. They will
present some cases of brain surgery that have the result that one single brain, one
single organism and central nervous system, having two distinct experiences, each
of which have good evidence that the are actually going on. They will argue that
these two distinct mental states do not belong to the same mind. the perception of
one of the experiences is completely unavailable to the perspective of the other
experience. They are not then being had by the same mind.
4. Can there by minds other than the minds of human beings, and if so in what way
could this happen?
Can an animal, or a computer, or a machine, can have a mind?
Do we think extra-terrestrial creatures can have minds? And what would it mean
if we found extra-terrestrial intelligence.
In essence, this is a question that revolves around the following thought:
We are already troubled in applying the concept of the mind to our own
brains. How would we go about doing this to the nearest available entities,
animals computers and aliens.
Hardest part of philosophy is understanding a question
Lecture notes 03.31.2011
Philosophy 7 Now a discussion of the Nagel Reading:
A basic distinction from philosophy: the distinction between what philosophers call
metaphysics and epistemology. Dannenberg‟s specific definition of these terms is the
Metaphysics – this is the area we‟re mostly studying in this course. “an investigation of
the ultimate nature of things”.
An example of a metaphysical question: do numbers exist? Does the number four
exist? Here‟s some reasons to think that it doesn‟t exist in the same sense as trees exist. A
tree is located in space and time, it is in a specific spot at a certain time. You could not
point to the number four as having a specific location in the material world. You could
point to groups of four things, but that‟s not the same thing. You can interact with a tree
physical, through the ordinary causal transactions of time and space. You cant really
interact with the numbe four that way. You can hold four pennies, but that‟s not
interacting it in the same causal physical way. This points to the idea that the answer is
more than a simple Yes. You need a special explanation to say what you mean when you
say the number four exists, if you choose to say so.
There are a lot of other things about which we could have the same discussion.
Colors for example, do they exist? Red things exist, but does redness exist?
We listed some reasons to doubt that the number four exists. What are some reasons to
think the number four exists
We have a name for it
We can make certain verifiable claims about the number 4. There afre facts about
it, such as the fact that it is divisible by 2.
It plays an indispensable role in our language.
It doesn‟t exist independently of human consideration, but in light of our
existence, it exists for us. We use it to count things.
However, a certain conception of existence could give way to allowing things that
certainly aren‟t real, like unicorns, to be described as real.
o We have to consider and define, what does it mean to exist? What do we
mean by existence?
We can ask non-philosophical questions about existence. For example, does big
foot exist? This is a simple inquiry into a factual question.
However, we are discussing existence in a metaphysical sense.
Sometimes we‟re interested in metaphysicians in asking, not whether it exists, but
given that it exists, what is the essential nature of its existence
For example, what is it for a tiger to exist? o A candidate answer: something with four legs and stripes that lives in the
jungle and eats meat
o Here‟s a problem with that definition: not everything that fits the
definition is a tiger, and not every possible tiger fits the definition.
o Another way to define tigers: DNA. What it is to be a tiger is to be a
creature that has certain DNA, independent of the superficial indicators of
tigerhood. We normally pick out the tigers by appearance, but appearance
doesn‟t have to be the way we define a tiger‟s essential nature.
What do we do about slightly defective cases in DNA, where its
somewhat different from other exemplars of that species.
o Notice what happened: we started by asking, what is it to be a tiger? Not
what do tigers look like. No, we wanted to discover the essence of
tigerhood, such that anything with that is a tiger, and anything that lacks it
is not a tiger.
o We could also define a tiger through its relationship in the food chain.
o All these questions are aprt of metaphysics.
o Another thing to think about: maybe theres no one thing that is the essence
of a tiger. Maybe theres no criterion that clearly divides the world into all
of the tigers and all of the non tigers. However, we can come up with a
working model that allows us to ascertain all the normal tigers with certain
degree of certainty, and allows us to consider the fringe cases.
Notice we could ask this tiger question about anything, and we would try to give a
similar kind of answer. We want to find something where we could draw a line,
on one side being all the tigers, and on the other side the non tigers
o What if history had gone differently, and they had not constructed the eifel
tower in its current location. What if they had built it in another location,
using some of the metal they were going to use for the one we have, and
some different metal. What if something else had been built in its place?
How much difference could we allow and still have it be the eifel tower.
o You might think that what it is to be something like the eifel tower is a
straightforward question about an object, independent of peoples
o However the eifel tower also exists as a symbol, it has an important social
role. You could say it exists most importantly in people‟s perceptions.
We‟ve moved to another metaphysical question: a question of what could have
happened, instead of what actually happened. The metaphysics of modality.
Questions about what is necessarily true, as opposed to what could have been
o In the lecture hall, it is true that no one in Fowler A103B on Tuesday 2
oclock has more than 7 names. Is this a necessary truth? No. it could have
easily happened that it would have been otherwise, and someone with 8
names could have walked in.
o Another case: Anyone has exactly two biological parents. Everybody in
this room has two and exactly two biological parents. Could that have
been different? There aren‟t seemingly many ways in which this could be otherwise. However we could imagine a world where science had found a
way for you to have multiple parents.
o We have to ask, how crazy can we get with out explanations of
hypothetical alternatives. Wildly implausible science fiction scenarios are
not relevant to us.
o He didn‟t say, is there a creature in here without specifically 2 biological
parents. He said, people. So we also have to ask, what is the essence of a
person? How much biological change could we undergo and still call
ourselves humans. What if we evolved such that we only needed one
parent. Would that then be US having evolved, or would that be a different
species having evolved from the ancestors we happen to have evolve from.
o We could have a metaphysical discussion about something like, if I take a
piece out of the eifel tower, is it still the eifel tower. Clearly it is still
similar to the original object, but is it in fact that same object.
o We left off on the last type of metaphysical question we CAN ASK, not
only what is but what could have been. Questions broadly of necessity and
Our topic for the start of the course is a set of metaphysical questions about one
particular topic, the mind. the same things we asked of tigers, we oculd ask of the
o Does the mind exist?
If it does, what are its essential features
What could have been different about any given mind or all
minds in general
What aspects of the mind are necessary for it to constitute a
mind, and what aspects are necessary
Questions in metaphysics are largely distinguished from epistemological questions.
However, it is tempting to ask these sorts of questions.
In contrast to metaphysics, epistemology is not the study of the nature of things, it‟s the
study of our knowledge of things. Epistomolgy is the field in philosophy concerned with
questions about knowledge.
In its paradigm case, it involves the grounds for our knowledge. What is it to know
something, and on what grounds can you know things. What do I know and how do I
know it. Presumably knowing something is different than the mere feeling of certainty. I
can feel very certain about something and yet not know it. It can seem to me that I know
something, and yet not know it. I can sincerely believe, and yet not know.
Epistemology tries to make sense of what really counts as knowledge.
Heres an example of an epistemological question. Lets stipulate that we know some
things about the number four.
Its greater than three. How do we know that? I was taught them in school o What makes this a good answer – historically speaking its accurate. Often
when we ask, how do you know, you are asking someone where they
learned something. How did you come by the information
o Theres another kind of question you can ask as a philosopher. Why do you
believe that? What‟s your good reason for thinking something? You are
challenging someone to justify their beliefs.
o Another evidence - self evident. Its impossible to deny it.
o Or, its in the definition.
A popular answer: the way you know mathematical facts is by use
of your faculty of reason. Just by thinking to yourself about the
numbers, you could come up with accurate justified beliefs,
provided that you‟re thinking in the right way
But how do you know you‟re thinking in the right way
Theres an important question: what constitutes good evidence for our beliefs?
o The way we identify mathematical facts is different thant he way we know
facts about a physical object
We observe an object using our senses, but mathematical
knowledge Is different. If you close your eyes and think about the
number four, you could come to the conclusion that its greater than
Largely we won‟t address these kinds of questions in this class. Oftentimes, there are no
good answers. So we won‟t really ask questions about how we know things.
Readings for today: 1. A selection from Nagel. 2. Descartes. 3. Another thing, Engines
from the soul
What is the significance of these readings?
Nagel – two highlights from what he says about the enterprise of philosophy. Often when
we‟re doing philosophy we‟re investigating the sorts of terms we use so often and take
for granted. Philosophy is thinking about the topics that normally we don‟t think about,
because they‟re so central to our lives that if we actually think aabout them, its
paralyzing. We use concepts unthinkingly. Its necessary to take it for granted if you want
to live a normal life. But philosophy is stepping back and thinking about those ordinary
things in a deeper sense, trying to figure out what you;ve been taking for granted
Also, the best way to get into philosophy is just to do it. Just ask questions and try to
This leads us to a bit of informal homework. Spend some time not reading but
thinking. The most important thing to do for this class is to think about the stuff.
Something brief about the argument that we‟re taking up next time: A reminder about the mind body problem: What is the relationship between a person‟s
mind and their body. Lets simplify and think that there are two kinds of answers we can
A. You can view the mind as a part of the body. Physicalism/materialism. The thesis
that the mind is the body, and reality is limited to a physical system
B. You can view the mind as distinct from the body. Dualism. The view that there
are two kinds of things in the world, physical things and mental things. Both
Descartes and Hart are dualists. Both argue that, the mind is one fundamentally
distinct thing (substance), and the body is another. There might be a variety of
contingent relations, but there is nothing deep or essential about the connection
between mind and body.
Hart puts it frankly: your mind could come apart from your body. You could logically be
disembodied. Your mind could exist without the body. This is a metaphysical claim.
What hart means by mentalism: the view that the mind might not be indentifiable with
any particular bodily system. Nevertheless the mind is dependent on the body such that it
could not exist without the body. The mentalist denies the possibility of disembodiment.
Nagel seems to support mentalism, while Hart and Descartes take more extreme
positions, dualism is a more extreme position than mentalism.
The doctrine of dualism has historically been tied to questions of the soul and the
possibility of the afterlife. However this connection is mostly historical.
Accoriding to Hart, you could wake up and witness your own body disappearing, but you
would still be there. You would still see things, and therefore you would have to see
things from a particular vantage point. It is a presupposition of Hart‟s that you identify
yourself with your mind, not your body.
Hart says: If I can imagine P, then P is possible. I can imagine being disembodied, so,
conclusion: I can be disembodied.
Homework: reread everything and then think about the stuff.
Lecture Notes 04.05.2011
We‟re gonna spend the day today considering the argument for dualism presented by
Hart in the reading.
How to think about the view,, dualism, under consideration. Dualism is a view about the
relationship between a person‟s mind and her body. 3 distinct but interrelated principles
1. A mind and a body are distinct substances –. Mind and body are not identical. 2. The mind is not a part of the body, nor is it identical with any part of the body. A
mind would not be on the list of all body parts. A brain would be on the list, but a
mind wouldn‟t be.
A further part of the claim – not only is the mind a different thing than the
body, the mind is a different type of thing from the body.
For example, the podium and the projector are different things, but they
are not radically different types of things – they‟re both material objects.
They exist in space and time and are accessible by the 5 senses.
The Dualist will claim that the mind does not fit in this category of
physical material objects. The mind cannot be characterized in the same
way as physical objects. It does not have a mass or a shape. It doesn‟t have
a location in physical space per se. It cannot be accessed by the 5 senses.
Thus the dualists conclude that the mind is a different kind of thing, a kind
of thing which lacks the properties of physical objects. In what category
will we place the mind? The dualists would characterize the mind as a
mental object. They would characterize the mind according to its mental
properties. You could define the mind as a thing that thinks.
3. The claim of independent existence.
a. For all we‟ve said so far, it still might be the case that theres an existential
dependendence between mind and body. However, the dualist will claim
that there is no dependence between mind and body, in principle at least.
The mind can exist independently of the body. This is the dualist‟s
i. One could claim that although ones mind doesn‟t depend on the
particulars of the body it occupies, one could think that one needs
a body to have a mind. this is a weaker sort of claim.
ii. Maybe you could even think your mind could be contained in an
animal body, not necessarily human. This is a slightly stronger
claim than needing a human body to house the mind
iii. An even stronger claim – you don‟t need any sort of organic body.
You could be translplanted into a robot. A sufficiently complex
physical system could realize the complex mental properties of a
iv. What the dualist claims is that there is no physical system
necessary. In principle the mind oculd exist in the absence of
anything physical. This is asserting a radical form of existential
Dualist Arguments for their claims: The Argument given by Hart
1. Premise 1 - If I can imagine that P, it is possible that P.
2. Premise 2- I can imagine being disembodied.
3. Conclusion: I could be disembodied. This is Hart‟s brief and appealing argument in favor of dualism. There is one small step
between Hart‟s steps and the claims of Dualism. It‟s important to point out also that you
could only be disembodied If the central tenets of dualism were true. If he could establish
that you could be disembodied, then he could prove the 3 facets of dualism true.
The first thing Hart does is point out that you can evaluate an argument in two different
ways. Philosophers like to do this. They ask the following question
1. If the premises of this argument were true (let alone whether or not the
premises are true), would that mean the conclusion is in fact true. Does the
conclusion follow from the premises.
Does the argument set forth by hart satisfy this question: If 1 and 2 of Hart‟s conclusion
were true, would that make 3 true? Yes. This means that the argument is valid. A valid
argument has the following feature – If the premises were true, then the conclusions
Its valid because of modus ponens
Validity must be used to refer to this specific formal feature of arguments.
There‟s another way to evaluate an argument: you can evaluate an argument for
soundness. If an argument is Valid and it also has true premises, then you have a sound
argument with a true conclusion.
We‟ve established that Hart‟s argument is Valid, i.e. its conclusion follows from its
premises. Now we must examine whether the premises are true.
Premise 1, If I can imagine P then P, asserts a link between our faculty of imagination
and a set of facts about what is possible in the world.
Claims about possibility, just like claims about actuality, can be true or false,
independent of our knowledge or belief.
Now a question arises, an epistemological question: We take it that sometimes we have
good evidence for believing in a claim about what‟s possible. What evidence do we have
for that claim?
Its easy to know how we have information about actuality: someone tells us, and we
Its harder to know how we have evidence for what‟s possible. Where is the information
Our intuitive answer: We get information about what‟s possible from our imagination.
We believe its possible that Tiffany was born in Brazil, because we can imagine an alternative story where her parents went to brazil. However, its harder to construct a story
where Tiffany was born in the Middle Ages, thus we think that maybe its not possible.
Hw due by Thursday class: write a paragraph on the possibility of tiffabys birth in
brazil, submit on turnitin
There‟s an analogy being put forward here, between Normal Perception and the world of
actuality, and Imagination and the world of possibility.
Perception is to the actual as Imagination is to the possible.
However, there‟s a bit of a wrinkle. It‟s an important feature of perception that there be
the possibility of misperception. What is meant by this for Hart is this: the fact that
perception gets us onto an independent world of facts (independent from our perception)
requires that it be possible for us to get it wrong sometimes. Sometimes we can
misperceive. There‟s a domain of independent facts and objects, and then there‟s our
outside perception. The only way perception can function as a faculty for learning about
reality is with the possibility of misperceptions. If you were never wrong in your
perceptions, you might start to think that your perceptions in fact constitute reality. You
might start to think theres no difference between whats out there and what you perceive.
The possibility of error is important because it shows that we are perceiving an
independent world of facts, rather than creating our entire reality through our perceptions.
One way to think about perception: It is not that case that if you see an S, then there is an
Even in the potential case of an infallible perceiver, there would still be a distinction
between his perceptions and the outside material world.
The point of this is to raise a challenge to the claim of possibility.
(If I can see it, it exists) seems similar to (If I can imagine it, its possible), but we decided
the first one of these is wrong.
If you accept that your imaginations are always right, then you start questioning whether
your imagination is functioning to track an outside world of facts, or rather constituting
its own reality.
If our principle about imagination allows no possibility for error (page 122 Hart, says
that the verb „to see‟ has two uses, a stricter use and a more relaxed use. The stricter use
stipulates that the only things you can see are real things. In this sense of the word see, its
true that (If I can see it, it exists). The looser sense: people see things all the time that
aren‟t there. Ghosts or oases in the middle of the desert. Hart will say that something
similar applies for the imagination. In a strict sense, you could be said to think you‟re
imagining something, when in fact you are not. It would be possible to misimagine. Ths it becomes possible for there to be an independent realm of possibility, to which we gain
access through our (potentially flawed) use of the faculty of imagination.
Dr said earlier that its not possible for Tiffany to be born in the middle ages. He said this
was so because he could not easily imagine it. However, one could potentially imagine
her living in a castle, going on crusades, etc. However, one could say that when you think
you‟re imagining Tiffany in the middle ages, you‟re in fact imagining a look-alike, not
the real tiffany. This is a sense in which you could mis-imagine, very similar to the ways
in which you could mis-percieve.
Lecture Notes 04.07.2011
Today: A wrap-up of Hart and an introduction to Materialism
What we did last time:
Started by thinking of the view that Hart is trying to advocate as one that is committed to
three inter-related theses, which are the sum of Dualism. Here they are:
1. A persons mind is a distinct thing from a persons body, nor it is identical with any
of the body‟s separate parts, like the brain
2. Not only as mind and body distinct things, they should also be understood as
distinct kinds of things. You might think of this as something like the basic
categories of things there are in the world. The dualist thinks there are at least two
distinct categories of things, physical things and mental things. Physical things
can be characterized by shape, mass, location in physical space. Mental things
cannot be characterized in these same types of terms. Minds are characterized by
a distinctive set of mental properties. Actually, it might be better to think of these
things as features or abilities, rather than properties. Descartes characterizes his
mind by what it can do, he says it‟s a thinking think. Something that doubts,
affirms, is willing, is unwilling, etc.
3. The Dualist claims a strong kind of existential independence between the mind
and the body. The mind does not depend for its existence on the existence of your
body, anyone else‟s body, or in fact any type of biological or even physical body.
This is the essential idea of the dualist. Your mind could exist not only outside
your body, but outside any physical body.
Hart felt that disembodiment was possible only if Dualism, especially number 3, were
true. Thus, he felt that if he could convince you that disembodiment were possible, he
would have proven dualism.
What is the appeal of this view? The possibility of disembodied existence is necessary
for any sort of belief in an afterlife or life after death.
Hart‟s argument: Premise 1: If I can imagine P, then P is possible.
Premise 2: I can imagine being disembodied
Conclusion: I can be disembodied
2 ways of evaluating this argument:
If the premises were true, would the conclusion then follow? Yes, so the argument is
Given that it is valid, we need to determine the truth of the premises, to see whether it is a
We observed that not only are there facts about actuality, what in fact happened, there are
also facts about possibility, things that could happen. There are facts about what is in fact
the case, and there are facts about what could have happened.
This led us to the following kind of question: Given that we can make claims about things
that are possible, and we have seemingly good reason for making these claims, how is it
that we make these claims? How do we have access to evidence about what can
happen. The way that we get information about actuality, i.e. perception, doesn‟t really
help us get information about what is possible. You don‟t know facts about possibility
through direct sensory perception.
Then where does the evidence for claims about possibility come from? Hart suggests that
the cognitive faculty of the imagination puts us in touch about facts about possibility,
similar to the way that perception puts is in touch with facts about actuality. Although
you don‟t see Christina possibly sitting in the back of the room with your eyes, Hart
would say its ok to say your are metaphorically seeing it with your imagination.
If you can imagine how something plausibly could have happened, then you seem to have
good evidence for saying it could have happened in that way.
Importantly this is a claim about what you can imagine, it says nothing about things that
you cant imagine. It doesn‟t deny that there are things you cannot imagine which are
never the less possible.
There‟s also an issue of, when do we know we are really imagining something, rather
than mis-imagining it. For example, could history have been such that Tiffany was born
in Brazil, or the Middle Ages. If you construe that for someone to be Tiffany, they need
to have been conceived from Tiffany‟s mother and father. For her to have been born in
the middle ages, her parents would have had to live hundreds of years earlier, and the
parents of those parents, etc. thus for her to be born in the middle ages, the whole course
of human history would have had to be altered. Thus, its less defensible to say that we
can in fact imagine Tiffany being born in the Middle Ages, because its problematic in
multiple ways. Hart would say that this shows that imagination is fallible just like perception, in his view strengthening the argument that imagination is a mental faculty
for gaining access to facts about an objective world of facts about possibility.
Let‟s ask about disembodiment, in light of what we have discussed about the nature of
imagination. Hart gives a vivid story describing how it would be to be disembodied. It
involves waking up, looking in the mirror, and noticing your eye sockets are empty. Then
the rest of you melts away, etc. However, given the possibility of mis-imagining, we must
now consider whether we have in fact properly imagines ourselves being disembodied.
1. Reasons why we have mis-imagined
a. Hart‟s view involves himself seeing, despite lacking eyes. Hart tries to
address this by saying your consciousness could generate a picture.
However, this violates our view of vision depending on eyes, photons, etc.
b. Another issue we might raise about visual perception. If you lack a body,
why is it that your vision is from a particular point of view.
c. What if you‟re imagining yourself being invisible. What if you thought
you were imagining yourself being disembodied, but you were in fact
imagining yourself being merely invisible. This is pretty ridiculous and
improbable, but at least it‟s not dualism!
Question: According to hart, is it merely a coincidence that when a persons body dies, we
cease having communication with that person (I.e. with that persons mind).
Hart would say, there‟s no guarantee that your mind will live on past your body.
However, if the two always seem to happen together, it would be a big coincidence that
this happens according to hart‟s view, if the two strictly are not related. Hart could
answer this by saying that without a body you could have experiences and perceptions,
but you would not be able to communicate. Communication relies on physical factors
such as talking, or writing, which a disembodied mind could not do. Hart might say its
not an accident that we don‟t contact disembodied mind, because the avenues of contact
all involve physical means.
Another point: the consideration that being a particular mind requires a specific
body. The identity of a given mind is tied to its body.
Closing thoughts about Hart – we have reason to be concerned about both premises of
Hart‟s argument. In light of a lot of what we said, in thinking abut the different cases of
imagining, the professor would want to reject premise one in the following way.
One possibility would be to try to find some different way of relating imagination to
possibility. hart didn‟t require accepting that (if I can imagine p, it is possible that P). the
case of tiffany being born in brazil is a powerful case in this instance. We FEEL LIKE we
know facts about where she could have been born, using perception and imagination.
However, we can imagine many things that we know to be impossible, like Greg turning
into an octopus, but we know that it is impossible. We know its impossible by imagining
it and seeing that it is ridiculous. Speaking plainly, I can imagine certain things that, in imagining them, they are impossible. Its an unnecessary contortion to have to say that
when you seem ot be imagining something like this, something like the octopus, youa re
in fact mis-imaigning.
Thus we need a new theory relating what is possible and what is imaginable.
The materialist claims that the mind just is a material thing. The Materialist specifically
denies the claim that the mind is a different kind of thing than a material thing. They
claim that the min has physical properties, because your mind is your brainm for many
materialists. The way that papineau will interpret this claim is in terms of states. He will
tlak aobut conscious states of the mind, and physical states of your brain and centreal
nervous system. By state, we mean the current features, attributes of something, and the
conditions that it is currently in. Being 71 degrees is a state of the room. Containing a
certain amount of coffee is a state of the professors coffee cup.
Philosophers of mind want to discuss the states of a person‟s mind, and materialists want
to relate these states to physical states of the brain.
The mind can be in the state of thinking of Vienna, or desiring a cheeseburger. Your body
could also be in the state of exhibiting increased electrical activity in the prefrontal
cortex. Your brain could be in the state of having its c fibers fired. This is what has been
identified as a state of pain.
Given this use of states, materialism can be formulated as a thesis about kinds of states:
A person‟s mental states, and in particular her conscious mental states,a re identical
to physical state of her brain. Every conscious mental state, is identical to some
physical state or other, in the brain. Feeling a pain in the toe, desiring a beer, each
one of these is one and the same thing as, that is identical to, some phsycially
describable state of the brian, or perhaps the brain and the central nervous system.
This is the argument papineau is centrall concerned with. P 126 many effects that we
attribute to conscious causes have full physical causes, but it would be absurd to suppose
that these effects are caused twice over, but it would be absurd to suppose that some
effect is caused twice over. Thus conscious causes must be identical with physical causes.
For example, conscious desire of a beer causes the physical result of wlaking to the
fridge. However, a brain scientist could in theory give a detailed, complete, phsycial
account, in terms of events in the brain, could fully explain the movements in the limbs,
the chemicals in the muscles, etc.
It seems as though getting the ber is caused by a mental state, however we could also give
a complete physical explanation.. Either the action has two distinct causes, mental dn physical, each of which would have
been sufficient to cause the action by itself, and the effect is hence overdetermined, or it‟s
the case that the conscious mental state just IS one of those physical causes.
According to pappineau, the former suggestion, the idea that your actions are in fact
overdetermined, is wildly implausible and should be rejected. Given that the former is
wildly implausible, the only option left I materialism. He acknoweledges arguments
against material, but he still thinks his argument is very powerful, and doesn‟t see any
way of rejecting it.
Philosophy 7 Lecture Notes 04.13.2011
PAPINEAU thinks its possible that there are two distinct causes for our behavior, which
are non identical. A physical cause and a mental cause
However papineau thinks another, more likely alternative, is that there is only one cause.
When you say, my thirst caused me to go get a beer, this is actually identical to
saying that it was caused by physical processes in the brain. Papineau thinks its
unlikely for one event to de overdetermined, to be caused by two distinct causes,
each of which on its one would have been enough to cause the event.
He thinks the feeling of thirst is identical with a certain state of the brain.
We can formalize this argument, much as papineau does
Premise 1 – conscious mental occurrences have physical effects, that is, they cause
actions in people
Premise 2 – all physical effects are fully caused by fully physical prior histories
Premise 3 – the physical effects of conscious states aren‟t always overdetermined by
Conclusion – materialism. That is, the mental occurrences are identical with physical
Heres the first question we should ask ourselves – is this a valid argument?
Reminder – whats a valid argument? An argument where, if the premises were true, the
conclusion would have to be true.
The key is understanding what the word fully means in premise 2. This doesn‟t mean that
they have only physical causes. All it means is that the physical causes that they
do have would be sufficient to cause them.
Premise 3 is necessary to rule out the possibility that every time you get up and get a
beer, its overdetermined. That is, it has two distinct types of causes. It has a full
physical cause, and a full mental cause. We conclude that yes, it‟s probably a valid argument. However, the reason its valid lies in
papineaus understanding of premise 3.
The professor is going to restate something to make it clearer. If we stipulate that 1 and 2
are true, ignoring 3, then papineau is right that there are two possibilities. Either
it‟s the case that there are two distinct causes (then it‟s the case that every
physical effect is overdetermined by two distinct causes, Or, the alternative, it‟s
the case that the two causes are identical. The cause mentioned in 1 is just a part
of the physical chain of causation mentioned in 2.
Now thr though is that premise 3 rules out the first alternative. According to 3, an effect
isn‟t always overdetermined.
We have to assume: premise 3.5 – if it‟s the case that sometimes physical states are
identical to mental states, then its always the case that physical states are identical
with mental states.
Now that we know the argument is valid, we must evaluate the truth of the premises.
How does papineau defend his premises? He will raise the strongest objections to each
premises, and explain why these objections are flawed.
A methodological note about this – the professor likes how papineau goes about this.
Papineau seems quite aware that someone might reasonably dispute each of his
premises. He doesn‟t say anyone whi disagrees is stupid. Rather, he says that he
has a good coherent argument, and that accepting it is better than rejecting it. He
thinks theres room for disagreeing, but the reasons for accepting outweigh the
reasons for rejecting. His humility goes along with a certain awareness of what he
accomplishes, and what he doesn‟t accomplish. You should know the scope of
your achievements. Don‟t claim to have proven anything definitively. The
methodology of papineau is admirable. You need to acknowledge the reasonable
alternatives to your views, but whether or not you need to actually outline
those reasonable alternatives depends on the specifics of the prompt.
Let‟s recap where we are. We‟ve established the essential validity of the argument, so we
must evaluate the premises of the argument, what papineau seems to offerin in defence:
he considers the strongest reason for rejecting a premise, and explains why he feels that
in light of this the premise must still be upheld
Premise 1 – some physical effects have conscious causes, such as a sensation of
thirst. We are comfortable making causal claims about the sequence of actions
Around the top of page 127 and going through 129, papineau says: there are 2 different
ways that people have tried to deny premise 1. The first way: Papineau attributes to Leibnitz the view that, though there is a strong
maybe invariant correlation between physical events in the brain and physical actions, he
will deny any causal relation. In his view, there are two independent sequences of events,
causally isolated from the other. Pap uses the analogy of two trains that happen to be
running along side one another, not influencing one another. The mental story is one
train, on its tracks. The physical story is its own train on its own tracks. Theres no causal
interactions between the two trains. Acc liebnizt, theres a kind of „preestablished
harmony; between the events on the two tracks. This harmony ensures that whenever
theres a certain mental event, there will be a corresponding physical view. The
explanation of this harmony is that god has set up the two tracks in this way. But if you
ask in a serious metaphysical tone of voice, does my thirst cause me to get up for beer,
the answer is no. its not a coincidence, but theres no causal interaction.
Liebnitz is not denying free will, hes denying the intuitive idea that when I decide to get a
drink that mental decision causes me to get up and go get it.
This is a focklore version of Liebniz‟s view. Whether he actually felt this is
However, Liebniz‟s view is just wildly implausible, and for Papineau that‟s enough
Theres another way to disagree with p 1, called epiphenomenalism. According to this,
there can be mental events as a result of physical causes, but not physical events as the
result of mental effects. Mental effects can be caused by physical sources, but they are
causally inert. They do not have any effects.
According to this view, whats the causal story of why you say ouch after something falls
on ur toe, your feeling of pain will not be part of the causal chain.
Both of these views seem too much in conflict with our common sense feeling that
mental states are efficacious. Desire for beer genuinely can cause one to get up and go get
one. Although this is not irrefutable, Papineau‟s though is that theres no real evidence
offered on behalf of these views. They are formal ways of rejecting P1, but THAT‟S
If we were to accept epiphenomenalism, this would imply a causal chain unlike anything
else observed in nature. We have two types of states with a certain particular causal
relationship. Physical states cause mental states but mental states are causally inert.
Where else in nature do we see anything like this? If this were true, that would mean the
mind is a different type of this than everything else (which some would argue is the case).
According to papineau, these arguments don‟t stack up, largely because they are
counterintuitive. If we denied premise 1, we would be left with a metaphysical claim
quite unlike anything else in nature. If you dney p1, this would mean the mind body
relationship is different from any other type of relationship in nature. However, someone who thinks the mind is in a sense special would favor a view offering
a unique relationship between mind and body. Isn‟t that the reason we though there was a
special philosophical problem about mind body relation
Premise 3 – the claim against overdetermination
Overdetermination is the state of having two distinct sufficient causes. A case of
overdetermination: someone gets shot and simulataneously struck by lightning. Each
alone could have caused the death., but both happened.
Think about the cause where someone gets shot and hit by a truck. If the truck hadn‟t hit
him, he wouldn‟t have died. This seems to follow from the fact that his death was
overdetermined. Ditto for if Christina hadn‟t shot him. In general if event E was caused
by A and B, and each of those causes was sufficient to bring E about, such that E is
overdetermined, then we tend to think the following claims are true: If A hand occurred,
E would sti;; have occurred because of B, and vice versa.
Now apply that to the particular case of overdetermination in question. IS getting up for
beer overdetermined? If this event were overdetermined, then you would still get up for
beer without feeling thirsty, due to the events to your brain. Likewise, if there were no
particular events in the brain, you would still get up due to the feeling of thirst.
Papineau thinks these is wildly implausible. He feels it‟s the most simple and
straightforward to say that the relation between mental states and brianstates is identity.
Lecture Notes 04.14.2011
For the paper, raise ONE objection to the argument, as specific as why you takes issue
with one of the premises
A recap of Papineau‟s argument
P 1. Conscious occurrences have physical effects\
P2. Physical events, physical causes
3. events not always overdetermined.
Liebniz‟s idea. there‟s no genuine causal interaction between conscious states and
physical actions. Rather, there‟s a harmony between mental and physical set in motion by
Epiphenomenalism – another way to deny p1. Mental events caused by physical events in
brain, but those mental states that arise are causally inert. Mental states don‟t trigger
physical actions. Mental states are a side effect. They are not useful for explaining
behavior. How does papineau defend himself against these views? Why does he think you
shouldn‟t be swayed by them?
They‟re improbable and counterintuitive. While they are coherent and logicall plausible
view of the world, but they seem veryu unlikely compared to the common sense position
according to which our mental states are genuinely causally efficacious. Of course its true
that common sense can be overturned, but only when theres a good scientific reason to
deny the common sense story.
We raised some considerations last time about whether this was an adequate defense.
Now we consider p3. “The physical effects of conscious states are not always
overdetermined by distinct causes”
Remember the definition of overdetermined –
Papineau‟s argument against rampant cases of overdetermination:
iN genuine cases of overdetermination (LIKE THE GUY WHO was shot and then hit by
a truck), seem to imply certain kinds of claims about what would have happened in the
absence of one of the overdetermining causes. If its true that each of the causes was by
itself sufficient to cause the event, it would be true that the event would have happened
even in the absence of one of the causes.
The guy would have died even if he hadn‟t been shot, or even if he hadn‟t been hit by a
If its true that E was overdeteremined by causes A and B, its true that in the absence of A,
E still would‟ve occurred because of B, and in the absence of B, E still wouldvbe
occurred because of A.
So far, all we‟ve said is, here‟s a general claim about cases of overdetermination. Now
papineau asks us to consider if these claims are true for a normal event of a physical
event with a mental cause.
The supposedly overrdetermined event: Going to the fridge for beer, which is
overdetermined by mental states and physical states of the nervous system
If this is truly overdetermined, then this should be true: counterfactuals
I would‟ve gone to the fridge even if I wasn‟t thirsty, because of the physical state of my
I would‟ve gone to the fridge without the attendant neural activity in the brain, due to my
desire for a beer. According to Papineau, neither of these is plausible. It seems strange to say, I still
would‟ve gotten up even without feeling thirsty.
Papineau thinks its more plausible that the feeling of thirst is identical with a physical
state of the brain.
However, there‟s a response to this argument. One could say, Papineau is right
that both of these counterfactuals are not true, because although mental and physical
states are not identical, they are interrelated, as evidenced by the fact that brains states
and mental states are always seen together.
It‟s possible that mental causes and physical causes are distinct but related in such
a way that they always occur together, so the counterfactuals are false./?????
Now it seems all we have left to do is to consider premise 2. Papineau has made a
pretty good case for P 1 and 3.
Premise 2: All physical effects are fully caused by purely physical histories
Papineau does not give much of an argument for Premise 2. He felt it was self evident,
but other people do not share his confidence.
This view is not obviously false, but its not a theorem of physics either.
However, one could claim that if we did find some physical event that didn‟t have full
physical causes, this would be catastrophic for all of modern science.
One way to deny premise 2: bring in god.
We‟ve found that p 2 is especially important for Papineau‟s argument. However Papineau
does not offer much defense of it. People‟s opinion on P2 depends on their prior
perceptions about the nature of reality.
However some will argue that premise 2 denies the presence of our subjective
Chalmers and Nagel on subjective experience
What is subjective experience – what it‟s like to see blue, to feel pain. In his first page,
Chalmers says something like, the vivid impression of the colors and shapes of things, the
feelings of the formation of thoughts and emotions. Or as nagel says, fundamentally an
organism has conscious mental states if and only if there is something it is like to be that
Chalmers and Nagel occupy a similar position. They both seem to want to argue
something like the following. The fact that our mental life has a conscious aspect – that
there is something that its like to have a mental life – makes it difficult to see how any form of materialism could give an adequate description of the mental life. Any materialist
attempt to explain mental life will leave out the most important aspect, the subject aspect
of what-it‟s-like-to-be-me. The problem isn‟t that we don‟t know which of the possible
physical explanations is right, its not that we don‟t know what part of the brain to look at.
Rather, it‟s not possible that something with the form of a physical explanation can help
us understand the nature of conscious states. This is the idea that underlies chalmers and
Its important to keep straigfht what is and isn‟t being claimed.
In denying that physicalism could be a complete theory of the nature o out mental lives,
nagel and chalmers are certainly not advocating dualism. In denying papineau‟s simple
materialist view, they are not advocating the view of hart or Descartes.
Nagel makes this point iin typiucal clarity on p 446. It would be a mistake to conclude
that physicalism is false…it would be truer to say that physicalism is a position we
cannot understand, because [we can‟t see how it could be true].
Nagel is saying that physicalism, the view papineau is advocating, is inconceivable. We
have no conception of what it would mean if physicalism were true. Thus, we can‟t even
evaluate the truth of the claim, because we can‟t picture it. Professor also takes it that‟s
the underlying idea of Chalmer‟s “hard problem”
Chalmer‟s distinguishes between the hard problem of consciousness and th easy
Easy problems are solvable by science. Such as, how can the brian integrate different
kinds of sensory information. How do we synthesize sound, shape, color. These are
questions of brain mechanics.
For chalmers, as hard as that problem is, it‟s still one of the asy problems.
Hard problem: why is there something that it‟s like to view an object. How does looking
at something give rise to an experience in a subject. How does subjectivity arise.
Chalmer‟s and Nagels‟s main claim: We can‟t even understand the thesis of materialism,
let alone evaluate it.
Nagel wants to argue: we have a model of how to improve our understanding of
something physical. We improve our understanding by moving from models that are
more dependent on our particular point of view, to something that iss more objective.
Moving away from the subjective, towards the objective. That‟s what it means to better
understand a physical event. However Nagel want‟s to say that the details of
consciousness are tied to the subject‟s subjectivity. Trying to gain objective knowledge of
subjective states, thus, is futile. It loses the very thing we‟re trying to understand. Ordinarily, we try to understand things objectively, but the conscious details of our
mental lives are intrinsically subjective. Trying to understand them objectively just makes
them disappear entirely.
Examples of these ideas:
First lets try to understand Nagel‟s initial thought, that trying to understand something
physical involves trying to be more objective about it.
One of nagel‟s examples: the rainbow
Suppose we ask, what is a rainbow. I wanna understand what it is. The first thing we‟d
say is it‟s a band of colored light that appears in the sky after it rains, arranged in order of
colors. Notice, in giving this characterization, I made reference to colors, so it assumes
my audience has the capacity to understand colors. In order for you to understand it, you
need a certain faculty of seeing colors. You might think, would I have understood that
definition if I had no capacity to see? No.
Thus we would agree that this is not the most basic explanation of a rainbow. A more
basic explanation would come from a physicist, something involving photons and light
and refraction of light into its various wavelengvths, through droplets of water that are
suspended in the atmosphere after it rains.
This explanation seems markedly less dependent on the particular idiosyncratic nature of
our human perceptual apparatus. In this second explanation, there was no mention of
colors. Rather, we discussed wavelengths. There was no mention of how it looks. The
second explanation is understandable by someone who is blind. Thus, we would call this
understanding more basic or fundamental.
This second explanation gets closer to what the rainbow really is, rather than how the
rainbow appears to us.
Nagel feels this is true of the patern of explanations in the physical sciences in general.
For example, how would you define water?
Water is a clear liquid, tasteless colorless odorless etc, its thirst quenching and fills all the
various lakes and streams on earth.
This is a very subjective explanation. It makes reference to all our different perceptual
A more scientific explanation would be to say, water is H2O. this is a molecular
description. A good scientist could explain the sensory effects water has on us, based on
its chemical structure. Thus you would say that the scientifically based explanation of
water is a more fundamental understanding. We started with a superficial understanding of how water appears to us. By moving away our own subjective viewpoint, we got a
better understanding of it.
Nagel feels this pattern of explanation applies to everything in the physical realm.
What could it mean to think that this same model could be applied to our conscious
experiences? The feeling of having a certain desire, thought, belief. Can we understand
these things better by trying to abandon our own idiosyncratic perceptions.
However, what it is for something to be painful, is for it to feel like pain. The only way
you know what pain is, is by experiencing it. Any attempt to understand the painfulness
of pain by moving away from the point of view from which the pain was experienced, is
To rephrase, when we were thinking about the rainbow, we were able to understand
various things as the sensory effects on us of some other phenomenon. How could you
possibly think of pain as the effect on us of something else that actually was the pain.
Pain‟s essence is an experience, rather than being the cause of an experience. The
painfulness of the pain cannot be explained away as the effect on us of some other
phenomenon. We are trying to understand the experience itself. If your characterization
of the pain ignores the pain‟s hurtiness, you‟ve missed the point.
Philosophy 7 Lecture Notes 04.19.2011
Today, we will continue our discussion of Nagel. We will also discuss the article that is
scheduled for next time, post-physicalism.
Papers due thrusday. Must be submitted on turnitin.com, in the correct TA Folder. May
require a hard copy also
We left off last time in the midst of Thomas Nagel‟s paper, what is it like to be a bat?
Nagel‟s focus is on the conscious aspects of mental life, our private experience. As Nagel
puts it, the facts about what its like to be us. Nagel says that much of our mental lives
have a certain subjective character. Moreover, this character of our mental lives is often
characterized as rich, vivid, and very specific.
As regards this richness, the professor has two ideas.
1. The professor at first finds himself attracted to the idea of using words like rich
and vivid to describe our mental lives. These words to characterize a certain
aspect of our inner lives. He‟s sympathetic to those inclined to use these words
2. On the other hand, what do people mean when they say that their mental lives
have a rich vivid character? There doesn‟t seem to be a better way of explaining
this. There‟s no way to explain, only to rephrase. You might think creatures with poorer vision than ours also have rich experience. When you try to scratch the
surface, its hard to know what one means when one says, our inner lives have a
a. This difficulty reminds us of the fact that, while we know what it is like to
have a pain or a desire or something, it is very hard to articulate to other‟s
what it‟s like. We find ourselves at a loss for words, unable to find a more
fundamental way to characterize our experiences. For example, what does
pineapple taste like? It tastes like pineapple
1. Some will take this to mean that inner experiences are
ineffable. They are not reducible to anything further. When
you‟re trying to describe how something felt like to
someone else, you need to resort to telling them to compare
it to some experience they have had.
This difficulty is a starting point for Nagel.
What does Nagel want to say about the nature of this rich ineffable mental life
Nagel says, the fact that our mental life has these rich, subjective features that we
nevertheless find difficult to characterize, makes it difficult to see how anything like
materialism or physicalism could be a complete or adequate account of the mind.
It‟s because consciousness doenst seem to us to be explicable in the same way physical
theories are thus explicable. In fact, using the methods of physical sciences will always
leave out this aspect, this what its like aspect. Yet, this aspect is what we take as the
distinctive mark of our conscious lives. Acc Nagel its not merely that we lack the correct
physical explanation, its not that we dont know which brain process generates
consciousness. Rather it‟s a conceptual problem. We can‟t see how anything in the
familiar physical realm, which we explain through physical science, could possibly help
us understand consciousness.
Then again we don‟t want to mischaracterize Nagel‟s view. He‟s not a dualist in the sense
of Hart or Descartes. He‟s not even against physicalism per se. He doesn‟t think the
position of physicalism is false. Rather, he thinks we are not even in a position to
evaluate the truth of physicalism, because we can‟t possibly understand what it would
Nagel might put it like this: we have no way of understanding what it could mean to say
the mind is the brain. He doesn‟t understand how there could be an identity relationship
between something with subjective conscious features, the mind, and something with
physical features such as mass, the brain.
Is Nagel making a claim about our current understanding, or is he saying, we
CAN NEVER understand it. The answer: He‟s not closed to the possibility of one day
understanding it, but he‟s not optimistic about when this will be. He thinks our brain science is at such a primitive stage that major conceptual hurdles will have to be
overcome until we can approach a coherent physical science of the brian.
Nagel‟s Argument for his view
Nagel wants to argue for this position in the following way. 2 claims fundamental to his
1 is about the form of standard physical explanation. To state the claim:
understanding a natural phenomenon in the terms of physical science, ordinarily involves
moving from a subjective understanding, to new and better concepts that are more
objective. Understanding comes from starting from concepts that depend on a particular
point of view (subjective), to a more objective understanding
2 the facts about what it‟s like to have experiences are essentially tied to a
particular point of view.
Nagel‟s argument: if you put these two claims together, you will notice that
applying the usual method, which goes from objective to subjective, will not increase our
understanding of the mental lives. Rather, by trying to be objective about the mind, we
loose the essential thing we are trying to understand.
We are starting with the first claim, which we discussed extensively last time.
We discussed how our understanding of certain physical phenomena, rainbows
and water for example, has moved from more subjective to more objective. Importantly,
this progression is viewed as progress. We assume that the more objective view gets us
closer to what the object is really like.
Point of view – What does it mean to say that you occupy a particular point of
view. In the literal sense, everyone occupies a slightly different visual perspective. This is
because no two peoples‟ eyes are directly on top of one another. Each person occupies
their own point of view. Now lets all look at the podium. Let‟s focus on the property of
shape. Notice that because of your unique location in the room, the shape of the podium
will appear slightly different to everyone, since everyone is viewing it from a different
angle. If we each of us tried to describe very specifically how the podium appears to us,
we would each get a slightly different description.
Now notice the following: We‟ve got all these facts aobut how the shape of the
podium looks from each of these points of view. There‟s another way of describing it‟s
shape. We can give its dimensions. 4‟ by 2 „ byh 1‟ rectangular prism. Now ask, is that
the description anyone would actually give, of how the podium looked to us? No. No
which of these two kinds of descriptions seems a better, more accurate picture of what the
podium actually looks like? What really is the shape of the podium. Is it really something
that looks different depending on where you sit, or is it the rectangular prism with said
dimensions. Intuitively, the real shape is its dimensions. The real shape of it does not depend on a particular point of view. Moreover, knowing it‟s dimensions can explain
why it appears the way it does to everyone, from their respective perspectives.
Significantly, we don‟t start out thinking that things are made of weird trapezoids,
the way they appear to us. We start out assuming it has certain real dimensions.
This is an important step. We started with a bunch of different pictures of the
podium, each coming from its own point of view. Then we moved to a description of the
podium that doesn‟t depend on point of view, its actual measurements. Dimensions are
not measured from a certain point of view. Dimensions are inherent properties of an
object. We are moving towards a conception of the podium that doesn‟t rely on
perspective, that doesn‟t even rely on the perception of vision. You could tell the
dimensions to a blind man and he would understand.
This very simple example is what Nagel has in mind when he talks about the form
of explanation in the natural sciences. Moving form subjective descriptions to objective
In the case of the rainbow, the point of view we started with was a certain
perceptual/intellectual point of view that we as human beings collectively occupy.
Together, we all have a single, human point of view. It is a perceptual vantage point that
is structured by our perceptual capacities.
Nagel‟s thought is that, when we do science, what we‟re trying to do is move
away from this human viewpoint.
People raised some questions last time about whether these scientific descriptions
are independent of our idiosyncratic perceptual capacities. However, Nagel will say that
the scientific understanding of a rainbow is markedly more objective than the simple
child‟s explanation of what a rainbow looks like. Maybe its not fully objective, but its
Second claim of Nagel: the essential nature of our conscious experience is tied
to a particular point of view
Simply, what he means is that the facts about what it’s like for someone to have
certain kkinds of experience, like tasting chocolate, are essentially tied to a particular
point of view, in the following ways.
Trying to talk about them in a way detached from the particular
intellectual/perceptual point of view of the particular creature or kind of creature that is
experiencing it, seems not only hopeless, but also a bad way to try to understand it. From
trying to detach yourself from the point of view a person occupies when they taste
chocolate, and trying to understand how chocolate tastes, you will eliminate what you‟re
trying to understand. For this he uses the example of the bat, to show that these facts cant be
detached from the point of view of the thing that has them.
Nagel starts by recognizing that, intuitively, there are facts about what it‟s like to
be a bat. We should be confident that bat‟s have conscious experiences. (if you want to
deny that bats have conscious experiences, use a dolphin or a monkey). These facts
about bat experiences are, just as ours, rich, detailed, hi-def. Just that there is something
it is like for me to taste chocolate, there is something it is like for a bat to taste chocolate,
should it find some.
Why does Nagel choose the bat specifically? Because bats perceive their world in
a radically different way from us. They predominantly use hearing, so we‟re inclined to
think the quality of their experiences is radically different. This is so because they are
structurally and perceptually different. They have sonar, which we do not. They have
wings, which we do not. They do things that we don‟t do, such as hang upside down, and
How would we go about trying to understand what it‟s like for the bat to have
these experiences. Nagel thinks that we can form partial understandings of what it‟s like
for the bat. However, these understandings are partial at best. We can compare things
bats do to things we do that are similar. We can engage in speculation, and try to
extrapolate from our own case, but the best we can do is this kind of hypothesizing.
Nagels thought is that this is because we can only partially take up the poing of
view of the bat. We share some of the bat‟s qualities, presumably the capacity to feel
pain, and the capacity to see. Others, like the sonar, we can‟t quite identify. Also, there
may be aspects of bat‟s experiences that we can‟t even begin to fathom.
We don‟t know what its like to be a bat, yet we‟re confident that there IS
something that it‟s like to be a bat.
If we did enough bat neuroscience, would that let us know what its like to be a bat? No.
We would have a better understanding of their functions, but this wouldn‟t lend us insight
into what it feels like for the bat.
Nagel notes that despite the fact that we find ourselves unable to conceptualize what its
like for the bat to have certain kinds of experiences, we‟re surely no less confident that
there are bat experiences, that genuinely exist.
Nagel is suggesting that we should put together the earlier though about increasing
objectivity in the sciences, with this observation about the subjective internal nature of
bat phenomenology. In the case of the bat, moving from a subjective view to a more
objective view loses what its like to be a bat.
The conclusion of Nagel‟s argument is that, atleast insofar as our current model of
describing the natural world involves moving from a subjective characterization to a more objective description, applying this to the mental life is hopeless. This is because if
we tried, we‟d always be trying to understand the mind in a way that loses its nots
importat qualities, the conscious qualities.
Philosophy 7 Lecture Notes 04.26.2011
To prepare for Thursday‟s lectures, in Arguing about the mind, read the first four pages
by Searle, page 495.
If you‟ve fallen behind on recent reading, this is a great chance to catch up! Please, I
implore you, for your own good and for the good of the course, use this opportunity
to get caught up.
Let‟s retrace the steps we‟ve taken to get to where we are.
1. We started by asking, How should we understand the relationship between mind
and body? We noted that each of us has a mind. We do mental activities. We also
have a body, made of the same matter as the rest of the universe, material stuff.
Our bodies are subject to the same physical laws as the rest of matter.
a. This leads us to our question: The mind seems special, while the body
seems like mundane matter. This is the mind body problem.
2. Some solutions people have given to this problem
a. Dualism – the answer of Descartes and Hart. Though our minds and
bodies are significantly connected, the mind and body are distinct,
independent, different kinds of things. According to Descartes and Hart,
it‟s a mistake to try ot explain the mind in the same way we explain the
i. What does it mean to characterize the mind and body as basically
different things? In this sense, Basic means able to exist without
anything else existing, at least in principle.
1. What are some basic features of physical objects?
b. Accessible through the senses
c. Location in space
d. Material that it‟s made of
e. Subatomic structure, fundamental particles
2. On the other hand, what are the basic features of something
a. NOT available directly to the senses
b. Does cognitive and/or perceptual functions
i. Thinking, reasoning, perceiving, being
aware, having experiences
ii. This gives weight to the dualist argument. Minds and bodies seem
to have distinctly different properties, with no properties in
common. They argue that this initial appearance of different properties is right, and you do need a different set of descriptions
for physical objects, as opposed to mental objects.
1. An argument supporting this position: The argument that
the mind and the body have existential independent.
b. Materialism – The mental is the physical. There is nothing but the
physical, so the mental must be the physical. Strange as it may seem
initially, after investigation one should conclude that the mind is not a
fundamentally different thing than the body. The materialist feels that our
goal is a characterization of the mind that is purely physical, just like the
description we would give of anything else.
i. Papineau‟s argument – every single mental state just is identical to
some physical state of the brain.
1. Mental states seem to cause physical action (thirst leads to
getting beer). However, any physical event is subject to a
completely physical explanation. The happening of
anything physical must be the result of prior physical
events. Now there seem to be two things which cause one
physical event, getting beer.
2. Why do there seem to be two causes? Two solutions to this
a. There really are two causes. Every physical action
is overdetermined, having two causes each of which
could have caused it independently.
b. Papineau thinks overdetermination is implausible,
so the mental must be identical with the physical.
i. Papineau is saying that the dualist is making
a ridiculous claim by saying that the mental
is not the physical, because if that were so,
everything would be overdetermined.
ii. However, Papineau doesn‟t have much to
say about his premise that every physical
event has a complete physical history
iii. A defense of Papineau‟s idea of the
completeness of physics. Papineau is
thinking that the world is ultimately
physical. It is explicable in the terms of the
1. An example: The earthquake in
Japan. We know a lot about why
earthquakes happen. But do we know
why it happened on the particular
day that it did? We know its
something about the way the
physical events under japans land
happened, that explains why it didn‟t
happen 30 seconds or a month from
when it did. We can‟t predict them. But this is a limitation of us. There‟s
a physical reason why it happened
when it did, and the point of
earthquake science is to learn this.
We don‟t expect to find
fundamentally different types of
properties to fully explain
2. Papineau applies this logic to the
mind. Your mind is just like the
earthquake. We don‟t know the
specifics of how physical laws play
into your mental life, but we will one
day. The process is no different, we
just need more physical science.
Article on Post-Physicalism. Nagel and Montero
When reading try to ignore the jargon. Then go back and re-read, and you‟ll see the
argument that the professor will expound
What the professor thinks is going on in the argument
Montero and Nagel are compatriots
Montero is asking, can we even understand the thesis of mind-body identity. Like Nagel,
she is skeptical about the physicalist claim. She points out physicalists describe their view
as themselves maintaining that the mind Is the body. But she points out that we‟re not
sure what that means.
Montero wants to give different reasons from Nagel why we can‟t understand the
physicalist thesis. Nagel was focusing on aspects of the mental that made it unexplainable
in physical terms
Montero takes issue with the notion of the physical. She says that given our definition of
the physical (which is not well defined), physicalism cannot be formulated as a
meaningful thesis about the mind body problem.
The second thing she wants to argue: Nevertheless the problem remains, and we need to
understand it differently.
She wants to reframe the problem without referencing the idea of the physical. She asks,
can the mind be understood in a way that is not mental? Is mentality a fundamental
feature about the world? She says two things about this verion of the question? She thinks this question we can
understand, unlike the question, is the mind fundamentally physical.
Second, she thinks this is actually what is dividing physicalists from dualists. The
Dualists think mentality is a fundamentally feature of reality (the mental is mental all the
way down), whereas physicalists like papineau want to deny that there are mental
descriptions that characterize the world. Rather physicalists think that the world is
The third thing she‟s going ot do: pose a challenge for Papineau and his cronies. SSHe
claims people like papineau give up something else that they‟ve wanted to maintain,
Deferential Naturalistm. Physicalists have tried to have their cake and eat it to. On the
one hand, they‟ve made a claim about the nature of reality, that it‟s physical. Yet, they
want to maintain a high degree of deferences to the natural sciences. She thinks they‟re
gotten away with it precisely because they play with this term, physical. This lossely
defined term has been taken to mean, whatever the physicist tells me. She thinks people
like papineau will have to abandon one of the two views.
She thinks they should abandon deferential naturalism. Instead she thinks the people who
are now calling themselves physicalists should call themselves fundamental non-
mentalists. Then they should go on to boldly assert that they are making a claim about
what the world is fundamentally like, in advance of any further scientific discoveries
about th nature of the world. She thinks, what they‟ve got to be sayins is, no scientific
discovery could upset the claim that the world is fundemtnally non-mental.
The professor takes it that her sympathies lie with the physicalists.
What‟s her argument for the first claim, that physicalism cannot be formulated in a
In order for a claim to be meaningful, physicalism has to rule something out. They have
to deny something. Physicalists don‟t know the details of the mind, they just align their
views with those of leading physical scientists. This is what they call physical. She wants
to say that given this defin ition of the physical, it‟s hard to see what if anything could be
ruled out by the claim that the mind has a physical nature.
Philosophy 7 Lecture Notes 04.28.2011
Guest Lecture – Paul Daniell
The Computational Theory of Mind
What have we been doing so far in this class?
1. Addressing the question, what are mental states? We‟ve had several answers
b. Dualism i. Epiphenomenalism – Causation goes from physical to mental, but
not mental to physical
ii. Interactionism – Mental states and Physical states can both
causally interact with one another
c. This is a very ancient question. Plato considered it in one of his dialogues,
However now we are going to ask a different sort of question:
How do minds work?
How are thoughts represented
How are thoughts manipulated via thinking
Can artificially intelligent machines reproduces human reasoning and
Can machines think
These questions arose in the 19 century. This is a time when sci fic starts focusing on
things like androids and robots. 3 iconic androids. Hal, from the Arthur Clarke novel, our
governor, and that guy from Tron.
Computational Theory of Mind – The mind is like a computer
The mind represents thoughts like a computer represents data
The mind manipulates thoughts like a computer manipulates data with
The computational theory of mind has a strange association with UCLA philosophy.
Famous UCLA proponents of this theory – Alonzo Church and Hilary Putnam. Another
philosopher from Rutgers, Jerry Fodor. All three are 20 century philosophers. There are
few proponents prior to 1950. Another major figure – Alan Turing. Influential in the
development of computer science, esp recursive function theory. Also worked as a code
breaker for the British in WWII. After his huge help to the government in breaking Nazi
codes, he was prosecuted by the British government for being a homosexual.
Computatioanl Theory of Mind (CTM) has a unique relationship to the idea of artificial
intelligence. If the mind is like a computer, and we can construct computers, then it
seems we can construct minds, or artificial intelligence.
Google Translate, and even Google itself, is a sort of artificial intelligence.
We have plenty of Weak AI systems. These mimic or simulate certain cognitive
functions which humans perform, such as translating, searching for data, recognizing
However, theres a further claim which some people have made. Strong AI is the idea
that a properly programmed computer would not only be mimicking human behavior, but
would in fact be having thoughts, and could experience consciousness. Let‟s consider what a computer is to begin with. When we hear computer, we think about
lap tops and desk tops.
Is an abacus a computer? Some say so. In Japan young children still use the abacus.
In the middle of the 19 century, Babbage constructed his difference engine for solving
polynomial functions. Through a mechanical process, you enter numbers, turn a crank,
and it computes the output of the function.
How were computers first defined?
Finite number of steps to get the answer
Difference machine computability
Long division is an effective procedure for calculating division functions
Computers are things that employ effective procedures to calculate a function.
A Turing Machine – A theoretical computational device described by Alan Turing in the
30s. An abstract idealization of a computer. It consists in:
An infinitely long tape that is divided into cells. Each cell has either a 0, a 1, or is
It also has a Head that
o Can read what‟s in the cells
o Write/Erase symbols on the tape
o Move along the cells
What‟s on the tape before the process starts is the input
According to a transition table, which tells the head what to do in a given
situation, and what to write, it moves along the tape and writes things, or erases,
What‟s left on the tape after the head has done its thing is the output.
A remarkable fact – every effective procedure for computing anything can be represented
by a Turing Machine. This is known as the Turing-Church theory.
These results affected all of academia, especially math and linguistics.
When people realized that they could get these effective procedures for math, they started
thinking that the important areas of mental life could be automated. The idea was this –
why couldn‟t we replace a math professor with a computer. The idea was plausible
because people thought math was just a matter of symbolic manipulations. They thought
math was an exercise in rote logic. Its not so much thinking as copying and pasting into a
set logical form.
If A, then B A
We‟ve done something very mechanical, something people thought computers could be
made to do. This process of copying and pasting is called formal symbol manipulation.
When it sees:
o If A and B
Turing hypothesized that thought had its own symbolic system, and rules for
manipulation, much as logic. These rules might be very complex and difficult to discover,
but in principle, because of the important thesis that any effective computational system
follows the Turing paradigm.
Why think that thoughts have this sort of logical structure? Because our public language
does. Natural public languages are grammatical, they follow a logical structure with rules
and symbols tht interact with one another according to these rules.
Chomsky had the radical idea that all natural and public languages are grammatical and
hence computational. They all share the quality of being generated by recursion. All
languages have a grammatical structure in which you can enumerate
something……combinatorilly building a set of sentences.
What does this have to do with the language of thought? Because we‟re able to have this
public language, theres gotta be something like it underlying in our mind, which we use
to understand this language. The thought is that just as we have a grammatical system for
understanding public language, we must have such a system for understanding our
private language, thoughts. Thus, the way the mind works must be similarly
The Turing Test – a successful artificial intelligence could be indistinguishable from a
real person over a chat program.
Criticisms of the computational theory of mind
John Searle – Philosophy of Mind professor at Berkeley
The Chinese Room thought experiment – attacks the computational theory of mind. Can
be found on page 495 of Arguing About the Mind
This basically suggests that just because you can manipulate symbols according to some
language, that doesn‟t mean that you understand the symbols. Is what the Chinese room man is doing an effective procedure? Does he use steps to get
the right answer? Yes.
Doe he therefor understand Chinese? No.
1. If there exists a computer program for Chinese where the computer running the
program does not understand Chinese, then strong AI is false.
2. In the Chinese Room, the man runs a program for Chinese but does not
3. Conclusion: Strong AI is false.
The Turing machine was operating on a formal syntactic system, but it had no idea about
the meanings of the symbols. It didn‟t grasp the symbols. It only understood how they
relate to one another (syntax) but not their meaning (semantic)
An alternate formulation of Searle‟s argument
1. Programs are formal (syntactical)
2. Minds have contents (semantics)
3. Syntax is not identical with nor sufficient for semantics
4. Conclusion: Programs are not sufficient for nor identical with minds. \
1. Not all cognitive capabilities are formalizable (nor made up of discrete processes)
2. In some areas of cognitive activity, like driving, we fail to use explicit rules of
3. You only follow algorithms when you‟re learning to drive
4. But when you become an expert in driving, you do these things automatically
(and perhaps without thought)
5. There is no algorithmic procedure to capture what is happening while one is
Philosophy 7 lecture notes 05.02.2011
Montero –what is the real difference between physicalists and dualists?
1. The usual way of understanding the disagreement is no good
2. Montero can provide a better way to view it
3. “physicalists” face a dilemma
According to Montero, physicalism has traditionally been defined as the position that the
underlying nature of the mind is physical
The people who are dualists get the basis of their position by denying that the mind is
physical According to Montero, this is not a good way of understanding the divide. She says that
the claim that the mind is physical is not a claim that we can readily understand. Montero
says, we have a clear sense of the important results of the physical research being done
on the mind. She thinks the further claim people want to make, the claim that based
on this research, the mind is physical, is not a claim we can understand.
In this regard (we said this last time), we can think of Montero‟s claim as similar to
Nagel‟s – the idea that physicalism is a claim we cannot comprehend. Montero and Nagel
can be seen as allies. It‟s not that we have reason to think it‟s false (the claim that the
mind is physical), its just that we can‟t interpret it.
On the other hand, Montero‟s reasons for claiming that we can‟t understand physicalism
is very different from Nagel‟s. Nagel‟s reason was that certain aspects of our mental lives
made it difficult to see how they could be explained by physical processes. For Nagel,
it‟s feature of the mental, particularly the conscious “what its like” aspect of the
mental, make it hard to see how the mental could arise from the physical.
By contrast, Montero argues based on aspects of the physical, without appealing to the
notion of the mental and its uniqueness. She thinks the concept of the physical is
She argues that any notion of the physical that a physicalist would want to use leads to
the claim of physicalism being trivial.
What does it mean if a claim is trivial?
Everyone knows its true
Automatically true, impossible to falsify
Even if true, has no important implications
For Montero, the important aspect of triviality is that nothing important would follow
from the truth of the claim. Secondarily, the way it‟s defined, it can‟t be false.
She feels, in order for the physicalists‟ claim to be important, the claim of physicalism
must rule something out. That would make it non trivial.
If it turns out that no discovery about the mind would disprove the physicalist position,
then the physicalist isn‟t saying anything.
Why does Montero think the physicalist claim is trivial, i.e. cannot rule anything
Ask a physicalist for a definition of physical. What does it mean to say the mind is
physical? The physicalists‟ presumed answer: “I cannot define the word physical precisely, but I
mean by physical whatever the modern physicist means by physicist. As I see it, the
physicist is aiming to describe the natural world in terms of some very basic entities,
properties, processes, and the relations between them. A basic inventory of nature. I
realize that physics is an ongoing concern. However, physics is making progress
towards the complete list, the basic exhaustive inventory of the universe. Ultimately,
assuming we keep making progress, we‟ll get to a point where we have a single set of the
basic things that constitute reality. On this list, we‟ll find just those things that show up in
the best scientific account of the world. Using this list, we will be able to