Dualism, simply put, is the belief that something is composed of two fundamentally different components,
and it was around long before Descartes put pen to page. Cartesian Dualism deals specifically with the dual
existence of man.
Descartes believed that a man consisted of
• Matter: The physical stuff that walks, talks, and plays the accordion.
• Mind: The nonphysical substance (sometimes equated with the soul) that thinks, doubts, and remembers
the tune to "Lady of Spain."
Descartes believed in a mechanistic view of the material world — that matter goes about its business and
follows its own laws, except when it is interfered with by the mind. Man's mind, then, simply "pulls the
levers" of the body to do its bidding. Exactly how the nonphysical mind interacts with the physical body is
a point of contention. Descartes believed that the pineal gland in the brain was the locus of interaction
between the mind and body because he believed that this gland was the only part of the brain that wasn't a
It's important to remember that, for Descartes, the brain and the mind are not the same thing. The brain
serves, in part, as a connection between the mind and the body, but because it is a physical, changeable
thing, it is not the actual mind. Man's mind is whole and indivisible, whereas his body can be changed. You
can cut your hair, remove your appendix, or even lose a limb, but that loss in no way reduces your mind.
Descartes also believed that man was the only dualistic creature. He placed animals in the realm of the
purely physical, mechanistic world, acting purely on instinct and on the laws of nature.
Descartes was led to his dualistic theories in part from his most famous philosophical endeavor — to place
into doubt all that could be doubted in the hope of arriving at a basic, undeniable truth. That resulted in his
famous Cogito ergo sum — I think, therefore I am. Descartes could doubt the existence of the physical
world and that even his own body actually existed, but he could not doubt the idea that his mind existed
because doubting is a thought process. The very act of doubting one's existence proves that one actually
exists; otherwise, who is doing the doubting?
Through his process of doubting, he recognized that, regardless of what the changeable physical world was
really like, his mind was still whole and unchanged, and therefore somehow separate from that physical
For Plato however, the soul was not dependent on the physical body; he believed in metempsychosis, the
migration of the soul to a new physical body.
The three sets of claims are logically distinct. Moreover, taken independently, each helps to form a type of
behaviorism. “Methodological” behaviorism is committed to the truth of (1). “Psychological” behaviorism
is committed to the truth of (2). “Analytical” behaviorism (also known as “philosophical” or “logical”
behaviorism) is committed to the truth of the substatement in (3) that mental terms or concepts can and
should be translated into behavioral concepts.
Ryle opposed the Cartesian view. But Ryle, like Aristotle, opted for metaphysical pluralism. Ryle thought
there were many ways to be, and that it was silly to claim that something had simply to be either "mental"
on the one hand or "physical" on the other with no merging and no inbetween. Ryle saw that if you limited
yourself to the Cartesian categories, you ended up making category mistakes (like saying, if you’re a
materialist, that intentions can’t exist because they’re "mental"; or if you’re a dualist, that intentional
behavior can’t be observed because the intention is "mental"). The root problem is the Cartesian notion of
the "mental" as opposed to the "physical." Ryle came up with a new form of behaviorism, which he called logical or philosophical behaviorism. Logical behaviorism was opposed to methodological behaviorism,
which was behaviorist psychology’s policy never to use mental events in its "scientific" explanations of
RYLE ON DUALISM:
Ryle Rejects Descartes’s Dualism
Cartesian Dualism is not just wrong but fundamentally confused
Ryle’s Logical Behaviourism
Mental vocabulary does not refer to private states
• Mental vocab. refers to dispositions to do certain things in certain
Talk about mental states is really talk about one’s 1) behaviour or 2) tendencies to behave
• Describing one’s mental states is really shorthand for describing how one is
disposed to behave
• According to Ryle those who seek to reduce mind to brain make the same
• They treat mind as if it’s in same logical category as brain – as if it’s a thing that
can reduced the brain
• Rather than conceiving mind as the way the body behaves
• f John B. Watson, B. F. Skinner, and others, is that psychology should concern itself with the
observable behavior of people and animals, not with unobservable events that take place in their
minds. The behaviorist school of thought maintains that behaviors as such can be described
scientifically without recourse either to internal physiological events or to hypothetical constructs
such as thoughts and beliefs.
Mind brain identity theory:
questions of the mind:
1) What is the connection between mind and body?
• 2) Where do conscious experiences (“qualia”) come from?
• 3) How is it that mental states are directed at the world and are meaningful?
• 4) How do mental states causally interact with the physical world?
• Plato’s Forms: Unchanging Universals
• Beauty itself, Triangularity itself, Justice itself are unchanging
• Concepts / universals are abstract and unchanging
• BUT (individual physical) things which are beautiful do change
• Platonic Dualism (from his Phaedo)
• Socrates argues
• 1) Because the mind conceives the Forms …
• The mind is more like the unchanging and nonphysical
• While the body is more like the changing imperfect physical world
2) Because the mind rules the body …
• The mind is more like the divine
• Just as the gods rule the physical world, so the mind rules the physical body
Avicenna’s Floating Man thought experiment • Conclusion: selfawareness (consciousness) is an immaterial soulsubstance
It is a materialist theory of the mind
• It holds that mental states just are brain states (i.e., mental states are identical to brain states)
• This means that mental states are not merely associated or correlated with brain states
• Analogous to the empirical claim that lightening is identical to electrical discharge, or that water is
identical to H2O.
The identity theory of mind holds that states and processes of the
mind are identical to states and processes of the brain.
• The MindBrain Identity Theory was a reaction to behaviorism and its inability to address
• Like behaviorism, however, the MindBrain Identity Theory rejects dualism.
• The MindBrain Identity Theory is a materialist alternative to behaviorism.
• Early Identity Theorists include: U.T Place, J.J.C Smart, and Herbert Feigl.
• 1) Behaviorism cannot account for sensations given their private and subjective nature.
• But, a theory of mind that leaves out private experiences cannot be correct (or at least complete).
• Smart wants to resist the behaviorist claim that statements like “I have a pain” are simply
exercises of a behavioral disposition.
• “…when a person says “I have an after image,” he is making a genuine report, and … when he
says “I am in pain,” he is doing more than “replace painbehavior,” and… “this more” is not just
to say that he is in distress” (p. 153).
• 2) It is unbelievable that the natural sciences could explain everything except conscious
• It is unbelievable, according to Smart, that the “raw feels” of sensations (i.e., qualia) should
“dangle” outside of the physical laws of nature.
• Should resist dualism, and instead should conclude that sensations are brain processes.
• 3) The claim that sensations are identical to brain processes is an empirical claim.
• Similar to the claim that lightening is electrical
discharge, water is H2O, and Clark Kent is Super
• Smart is concerned with numerical identity as opposed to qualitative identity.
• Certain brain state terms and sensation terms refer to the very same thing – they are just described
in different ways.
Unlike behaviorism, the mindbrain identity theory does not eliminate or ignore
• Qualia are not ignored or treated as irrelevant epiphenimenon.
2) Unlike Cartesian Dualism, the MindBrain Identity Theory does not make qualia “spooky”.
• On the identity theory, qualia are real, physical phenomena within the scope of science.
• The identity theory is ontologically parsimonious: is a simpler metaphysics which does not
3) The mindbrain identity theory offers a solution to the problem of mental causation.
• Avoids epiphenomenalism by locating qualia within the physical system of the brain.
• If excited cfibers cause pain behavior, and pain = excited cfibers, then pain causes pain behavior.
4) The mindbrain identity theory explains the correlation between brain activity and conscious
experiences. • Consciousness just is brain activity.
• In this way, the identity theory demystifies the relation between consciousness and the brain.
1) The Objection from Knowledge (p. 154155).
• A person can know nothing about the brain and still know a lot about his/her sensations.
• Aristotle knew a lot about sensations, but thought that the brain was an organ for cooling the body
(i.e., a radiator)!
• Therefore, sensations cannot be brain processes.
The vocabulary of neuroscience and the vocabulary of sensations are logically
distinct – so, knowing one does not entail knowing the other.
– one could know a lot about water without knowing that it is H2O.
– Clark Kent is Superman despite the fact that Louis Lane believes that they are different
An afterimage is a visual impression that remains in the retina after the initial
stimulus is removed. An afterimage always involves colors that are
Smart& two fold access identity theory:
“Pain” and “Cfiber excitation” have different meanings
But, as a matter of fact, they refer to the very same thing
“The raw feels of direct experience as we ‘have’ them, are … identifiable with the referents of some
1) The owner of a brain lives through the brain activity/experience
• Firstperson perspective: as the owner of the brain, you “enjoy or suffer” this
2) Your neurosurgeon can also observe and study those same patterns of neural activity
• But only from her thirdperson perspective
• Your neurosurgeon only has direct access to events in her own brain
1) Subjective/firstperson access
• Some of the neural firings in your brain are experiences – but for you alone
2) Objective/thirdperson access
• The neuroscientist can study your brain activity – but she cannot live through
• Because it is not her brain
• A hypothetical brain imaging machine: allows you to watch your own neural
• E.g., watch the neural activity that is your pain experience – 2 modes of access
to same event
• You would have both 1 and 3 person access to same thing
Intermodal identities: when we identify a visually perceived property with touch perceived property
E.g., recognizing same shape via sight or touch
Provides two very different perspectives on same property
Objection #3: MB Identity cannot avoid dualism
Even if it all happens in the brain, qualia will always be distinct kinds of properties
Neurological properties are seem so different from qualia that they cannot be the same
Many Modes of Sensation
The Forgotten Senses:
• Pheromones – even plants communicate via pheromones
• Balance (equilibrioception), proprioception, various bodily senses like thirst
• You NOTICE the loss of equilibrioception in states of vertigo
Humans can and do use sound to “see” the world
• This of how you can estimate size of a pitchblack room just by speaking
• Blind person using a cane – OR even the “Blind Samurai”:
TWO DEFINITE STATES OF MIND
Nagel: subjectivity / points of view conflict with scientific worldview
Ideally science is the “View From Nowhere”
Physical sciences are committed to an objective, public methodology
Thus physical science will always miss / ignore subjectivity
Nagel: consciousness is what makes the mindbody problem “intractable”
– The mindbody problem is unlike the waterH2O problem or the gene
– We do not even have a conception of what a physical account of the
mind would look like!
– Science is unable to explain the most important aspects of mind:
Bats are surely conscious
– There is somethingitislike to be a bat
– Bats have a mode of sensation we do not have—Sonar (echolocation)
– It is probably not like anything we ever experience
Is there any method that will allow us to extrapolate to the inner life of a bat?
– Our imagination is limited to our own repertoire of experiences
– At best I could only imagine whatitislike for me to behave like a bat
A possible response from Feigl?
First, Feigl does not try to ignore subjectivity
– He accepts the essentially subjective nature of experiences
– And tries to accommodate this within his twofoldaccess theory
Second, Feigl does not try to analyze (define) qualia in terms of neurological states
– He agrees that a complete physical description of the brain will NOT
tell us whatitislike
– Feigl: nevertheless
– We do have good reasons to believe that the whatitislike aspects of mind are
– 1) It explains how qualia causally affect behaviour
– 2) It is scientifically fruitful – qualia can be the objects of scientific study – 3) It explains why qualia are subjective – only I am in a position to be the subject
of my own brain activity
– 4) It is ontologically parsimonious – it is the simplest theory
1) Mental states are experiential
– Qualia are feltqualitative