Introduction to PhilosophyLecture 13Minds and Bodies #2 (Physicalism) By David Kelsey
Physicalism Physicalism: Maybe we want to be physicalists instead of dualists… There are different kinds of physicalism… All Physicalists agree that everything is physical or material substance.
Behaviorism Behaviorism: “The mind was not something behind the behavior of the body, it was simply part of that physical behaviour. My anger with you is not some modification of a spiritual substance which somehow brings about aggressive behariour; rather it is the aggressive behaviour itself…Thought is not an inner process that lies behind, and brings about, the words I speak and write: it is my speaking and writing. The mind is not an inner arena, it is outward act.” (Armstrong, The Nature of Mind) According to Behaviorists, Descartes’ argument goes wrong very early. Instead of asking “what is the mind?” we should ask: “what is it to have a mind?” Behaviorism’s answer: Behaviorism tells us the answer to these questions has to do with behavior. All mental states--experiences, beliefs, desires--are behaviors, or dispositions to behave in a certain way, given a certain stimulus.
Behaviorism andthe problem of other minds Behaviorism has a nice solution to the problem of other minds: All my evidence that you have a mind comes from your behavior. Pain example… According to Behaviorism, what it is for you to be in pain just is for you to exhibit that behavior. So it can’t be that you exhibit all that behavior without there being any pain behind it. If I know how you’re behaving, then I know that you’re in pain.
Problems for Behaviorism:Actors Actors: According to Behaviorism, being in the mental state of being in pain is just exhibiting certain pain like behaviors, for instance saying ‘Ouch’, etc. But then if someone were to act out the pain like behaviors the Behaviorist would have to say that he was in the mental state of pain. So according to Behaviorism, there’s no difference between a good enough actor pretending to be in pain and someone who really is in pain. But he isn’t, he is just acting.
Problems for Behaviorism:inner mental states The problem of inner mental states: “…One obvious difficulty is that it is our common experience that there can be mental processes going on although there is no behariour occurring that could possibly be treated as expressions of these processes. A man may be angry, but give no bodily sign; he may think, but say or do nothing at all.” (Armstrong, The Nature of Mind.) Mental state but no behavior: According to Behaviorism, mental states just are certain kinds of behaviors. Thus, if there isn’t any behavior then there isn’t a mental state. But then all of your mental states must be manifested in your behavior. But then it seems that you can’t have inner mental states
Problems for Behaviorism:inner mental states #2 So Behaviorists have a hard time accounting for inner mental states, for example: Try thinking of a number and don’t tell anyone. Suppose you are thinking of 52. Behaviorists respond to this objection like this: You are having a mental state in thinking of the number 52 because in so thinking you have a disposition to say ‘52’ if someone asked you what the number is. As Armstrong puts it: “…to meet the obvious objection to Behaviourism that there can be mental processes going on although the subject is engaging in no relevant behavior…We can say he thinks although he does not speak or act because at that time he was disposed to speak or act in a certain way. If he had been asked, perhaps, he would have spoken or acted.” (The Nature of Mind) But isn’t this response inadequate? Armstrong in response “When I speak but my thoughts do not issue in any action, it seems…obvious that there is something actually going on in me which constitutes my thought. It is not simply that I would speak or act if some conditions…were fulfilled. Something is currently going on, in the strongest and most literal sense of “going on,” and this something is my thought.” (The Nature of Mind.)
Identity theory Identity Theory: Smart on Identity Theory:“It is that, in so far as “ache”…is the report of a process, it is a report of a process that happens to be a brain process…in so far as a sensation statement is a report of something, that something is in fact a brain process. Sensations are nothing over and above brain processes…” (From Mental Processes are Physical.) Mental states are identical to states of the central nervous system: According to the Identity theorist, mental states (beliefs, desires, pains, experiences) are identical to states of the central nervous system. C-fibres: Suppose that neuroscientists have discovered structures in the brain called C-fibres. If we artificially stimulate your C-fibres you feel pain. And anyone who is feeling pain has active C-fibres. But then, pain just is C-fibre stimulation… Identity: To say pain and C-fibre stimulation are identical: 2 names for the same thing…
Descartes’ argument again But wait! Doesn’t Identity theory run straight into Descartes’ argument for Dualism? 1. I can doubt that my body exists. 2. I cannot doubt that my mind exists. 3. Thus, my mind is not the same thing as my body. As applied to Identity theory: 1*. I can doubt that, when in pain my C-fibres are stimulated. 2*. I cannot doubt that, when in pain, I am in pain. 3*. Thus, pain is not the same thing as C-fibre stimulation. As Smart puts it: Any illiterate peasant can talk perfectly well about…how things look or feel to him, or about his aches and pains, and yet he may know nothing whatever about neurophysiology. (From Sensations and Brain Processes)
A reply to Descartes argument A reply to Descartes argument: Refutation by logical analogy: The identity theorist J.J.C Smart thinks Descartes argument is invalid and he uses refutation by logical analogy to show this: Someone who doesn’t know that lightning is an electrical discharge can doubt that an electrical discharge just struck over there without doubting that lightning just struck over there. Descartes reasoning would show that lightning is not an electrical discharge! But this is absurd! In Smart’s words: “there can be…statements of the form “A is identical to B,” and a person may well know that something is an A without knowing that it is a B. An illiterate person might well be able to talk about his sensations without knowing about his brain processes, just as he can talk about lightning though he knows nothing of electricity.” (From Sensations are Mental Processes.)
The reply continued Smart in reply to Descartes: “Lightning” and “electrical discharge” are two names for the same one thing. Same extension, different intension… And the same thing is going on with: “The morning star” and “the evening star”: “Pain” and “C-fibre stimulation”: “My mind” and “My brain”:
Varieties of Physicalism Types of Physicalism: We’ve seen Behaviorism and the Identity theory. Disagree about which physical state to identify with which mental state. Also disagree about what sorts of things count as having a mind. You and I are clear cases... But what about marginal cases… Liberal theories: When a theory of mind counts something as having a mind that obviously doesn’t, it is too liberal. Chauvinistic theories: When a theory of mind counts something as not having a mind that obviously does, it’s too chauvinistic.
Behaviorism is too liberal The Hollow Tinfoil sculpture: Someone might make a hollow tinfoil sculpture of a human being, painted to look perfectly realistic, and we might devise a fan of a sort such that the wind might blow the sculpture around in just such a way that it appears to be giving a philosophy lecture. According to the Behaviorist, the hollow sculpture has a mind! So Behaviorism is too liberal!
The Identity theoryis too chauvinistic Martian minds: Suppose that there are Martians who look and behave much like humans, but are totally different internally. They have some internal stuff that “does the same job” as a brain... But prick a Martian with a pin, and it yells ‘Ouch’. And yet because a Martian is not in a state of C-fibre stimulation, Identity theory says the Martian isn’t in pain. Robots: What about robots? We might say they can have mental states but not according to Identity theory.
Problems with Physicalism Getting Physicalism correct: It is hard to get a Physicalistic theory of the mind that isn’t either too liberal or too chauvinistic. A Hybrid: perhaps we need some kind of hybrid between behaviorism and the identity theory… Armstrong’s theory: “For perhaps what we mean by a mental state is some state of the person which, under suitable circumstances, brings about a certain range of behavior. Perhaps mind can be defined…as the inner cause of certain behaviour…And so, assuming we have correctly characterized our concept of a mental state as nothing but the cause of certain sorts of behaviour, then we can identify these mental states with purely physical states of the central nervous system.” (The Nature of Mind.)