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Introduction to the Topic of Mind-Body


Mind-Body Dualism
Many of our questions about brains, minds, and
machines are not only questions for which we do
not have answers, but questions for which we do
not even have approaches for finding answers.
What is consciousness?
How could our three-pound brains possibly
produce our rich experience of the world?
Could a machine have subjective experience?
These are the questions of philosophy of mind.

The Mind-Body Problem

Five obvious philosophical facts:

1. You have a mind and a body;

2. These normally work together;

3. Your body is physical and, thus, publicly observable;

4. Your mental life is essentially private; therefore,

5. You have privileged access to the contents of your

own mind.

If the obvious philosophical facts are true, what

must the universe be like?
The simplest theory of the universe that fits
these facts is Dualism.

To understand Cartesian Dualism

Crucial to the argument is a basic principle from

Leibniz, the indiscernibility of identicals:

1. If two things are identicalif two things are the

same thingthen anything true of one is true of the

In groups answer the following questions:

How does Descartes conceive of the essences of mind and body?
According to Descartes, can a mind exist without a body?
(Focus on the First and Second Mediation)

The indiscernibility of identicals:

If two things are identicalif two things are the

same thingthen anything true of one is true of the

According to Dualism, the universe is divided into two radically

different halves.

1. The physical realm contains all those things made of

matter, which occupy space and are governed by the laws of

2. The mental realm contains those things that are essentially

mental: hopes, emotions, imaginings, and consciousness.

3. A can of pineapple is entirely physical. The taste of

pineapple is something mental.

This position is Cartesian Dualism,

outlined in Descartes Meditations.

Descartes offered logical arguments that Dualism must be true.

The argument has two related conclusions.

1. The first conclusion is that your mind is in no

way the same thing as your body or any part of
your body.

2. The second conclusion is that what is essential to

you is not your body but your mind.

When the pieces of the argument are put together, they

entail the conclusion that Dualism must be true.

Leibnizs principle is: If two things are identical, everything

true of one must be true of the other.

I can doubt that I have a body or any part of a body. I can

even doubt that I have a brainmaybe that is part of the
illusion. I cannot doubt that I have a mind.

There is, therefore, something true of my mind that is true of

no part of my body: I cannot doubt that I have it.

It follows by Leibnizs principle that my mind cannot be my

body or any part of my body. My mind cannot be my brain.

But dualism also has a central philosophical problem

According to Cartesian Dualism, the mental and the physical are

entirely different realms. One is a realm of things that obey physical
laws and occupy space. Another is a realm of ideas, sensations, and
feelings that dont even exist in space.

If those realms were entirely distinct, it would seem that nothing

mental could cause anything physical, and nothing physical could
cause anything mental.

But we know that the mental does affect the physical: Our desires
result in physical behavior. We know that the physical does affect the
mental: Physical events in the world affect our beliefs and feelings.

The completely separate realms view of Dualism must,

therefore, be wrong.

Consider this thought experiment:

We havent proven anything like this, but suppose the

following beliefs turned out to be inconsistent. In order to
remain consistent, you have to abandon at least one. Which
of these beliefs would you keep, which would you reject,
and why?

a. The mental and the physical are radically different

aspects of reality.

b. The physical and the mental are causally linked.


Phineas Gage
Historical view of a number of things we
have learned about minds and brains,
starting with Phineas Gage.
We should be able to find out things
about the brain by seeing how the mind
works. We should be able to find out
things about the mind by seeing how the
brain works.

Mind and brain seem to work together, yet we seem to

have a single, unified stream of consciousness, despite
the fact that different aspects of perception, judgment,
and emotion are processed in different parts of the brain.
How can that be?