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Critique on Thomas Nagels What it is like to be a bat? The mind-body problem has troubled philosophers for centuries.

This is because no human being has been able to sufficiently explain how the mind actually works and how this mind relates to the body most importantly to the brain. If this were not true then there would not be such heated debates on the subject. No one objects to the notion that the Earth revolves around the sun because it is empirical fact. However, there is no current explanation on the mind that can be accepted as fact. In What is it like to be a bat?, Thomas Nagel does not attempt to solve this problem. Instead, he attempts to reject the reductionist views with his argument on subjectivity. He examines the difficulties of the mind-body problem by investigating the conscious experience of an organism, which is usually ignored by the reductionists. Unfortunately, his arguments contain some flaws but they do shed some light as to why the physicalist view may never be able to solve the mindbody problem. In What is it like to be a bat?, Nagel attempts to distinguish between objective and subjective conscious experience. He begins his paper by explaining how consciousness is what makes the mind-body problem intractable (p. 534) and why reductionists must use this in order to come to a true conclusion about the mind. He uses the what is it like to be a bat example to support this argument because he wants to prove that the mind has a subjective aspect to it. However, this argument already begins with a flaw. This argument presupposes that a bat is a thinking, conscious being. He even states this prior to the bat example when he states Conscious experience is a widespread phenomenon. It occurs at many levels of animal life . . ., and then he goes on to state, We may call this the subjective character of experience. But we cannot presuppose this because of the mere fact that we DO NOT know what it is like to be a bat and therefore we do not know

if a bat is a conscious being. I am not negating the fact that bats and other animals may have experiences and that these experiences are the results of being conscious animals. I am just saying that this has not yet been proven factually and it therefore cannot be used as a presupposition towards an argument. We can only infer that other animals have conscious experience through our own perceptions. We can then make comparisons from our own conscious experiences using these perceptions but this is not sufficient to support an argument. Nagel then proceeds with his argument by demonstrating why we cannot know what it is like to be a bat. A human has an imagination and could therefore imagine what it would be like to have the characteristics of a bat. However, a human cannot imagine what it is like for a bat to be a bat. Nagel supports this by saying, if I try to imagine this, I am restricted to the resources of my own mind, and those resources are inadequate to the task. (p.536). I agree with Nader on this point. In order for me to experience what it would be like to be a bat I would have to make the actual transformation to a bat and there is no way for me to do that. The only other possible way for this to occur would be by a proper explanation about the mind of a bat but this too seems implausible because of the subjective nature of the mind I would also require the actual experience in order to really KNOW. Another objection can be raised to this argument. What if the conscious aspect of a bat is no different than the consciousness of a human being? Why must we adhere to Naders presupposition that being a bat is different than being a human. This does not mean that a bats intelligence is on the same level of a human or that bats can think at all or that bats can even have the same experiences as a person. I am just saying that if a bat has a conscious mind then why should the actual conscious aspect be different from that of a human being? Maybe once this conscious

aspect is explained then we will be able to actually know what it is like to be a bat. He then goes on to say we cannot expect ever to accommodate in our own language a description of Martian or bat phenomenology. (p. 536). He holds this to be true because he believes that such an understanding may be permanently denied to us by the limits of our nature and that we do not possess the vocabulary to describe it accurately. This may be true because of the fact that consciousness has yet to be described but it cannot be negated either. There may be someone in the future who will be able to describe the mind accurately. Unfortunately, this seems implausible at the moment because there seems to be no progress on the subject but this does not mean that it cannot be explained within the realm of our vocabulary. Nader also points out that the reason there has been no progress is because of the minds subjective nature and that this subjective nature embodies a particular point of view. For example, my conscious experience involves my particular point of view and a dogs conscious experience (if it has one) involves its own point of view. Nader explains that if the facts of experience facts about what it is like for the experiencing organism are accessible only from one point of view, then it is a mystery how the true character of experiences could be revealed in the physical operation of that organism. (p. 537). There is no doubt that experiences encompass a particular point of view. However, this does not prove that consciousness cannot be explained. There may be some aspect of consciousness which could be explained without having each individuals point of view accounted for. For example, the human mind may be able to be explained in general terms which could encompass the entire human race even though each individuals point of view is not accounted for. In fact, maybe that is all these point of views are a point of view which only defines that particular persons individuality. Thus, the fact that consciousness

involves a particular point of view does not mean that it cannot be explained and maybe once it is explained then we will be better suited to understand each others experiences and points of view. However, Nader intends to use the point of view as the basis for his subjectivity argument. He believes that the only way to understand the mind of a bat is to take a bats point of view. This does seem plausible. In order for me to truly know what it feels like to be a bat, I would have to transform myself into a bat. But as I stated before, consciousness would have to be proven in other animals before raising these arguments. Not many people would argue that primates or whales are conscious animals but how can this be proven and at what point to we draw the line? Can we say that a housefly is not conscious but a mouse is? What would be the basis of this argument? The only way to disprove this will be when consciousness is explained but maybe that wont even be enough. Furthermore, maybe consciousness does need the subjectivity of a point of view in order to be fully explained. If this is true then it seems like we will never be able to really know what it is like to be a bat because knowing its objective nature will just not be enough. He then explains why the current physicalist view does not work the view that mental events are physical events. He states that there is no clear explanation of what a mental event is; therefore, it cannot be said to be a physical event because we do not even know the nature of the mental event. I agree with this reasoning. How can someone say that something is something else without even knowing what that something is? However, Nader also points out that this may be proven in the future. There is no way for him to negate physicalism at this point so he does not do so, which aids in his quest because it demonstrates that he realizes his view may be incorrect too. Finally, Nader ends the discussion by saying that we are completely unequipped to think about the subjective

character of experience without relying on the imagination. (p. 540). He believes that an objective phenomenology could be made which would describe someones experiences without the use of imagination. This description could encompass the subjective aspect of the mind objectively and could therefore be described to a being incapable of those experiences. Unfortunately, this too seems implausible. Nader uses the example of explaining the color red to a blind person. However, there is no possible way for a blind person to know what red is until this person sees the actual color. Knowing red involves seeing red. He agrees that something would be left out (p.540), but what is left out is precisely what that blind person would need in order to really know red. Thus, Nader negates his own assumption. Although Naders arguments contain some flaws, he still demonstrates that the subjective aspect of the mind may need to be included in the answer to the mindbody problem in order for a true solution to be obtained. I do not believe that mental states can be explained with the simple firing of neurons. This explanation would leave out the conscious experience. Consciousness involves experience and an awareness of ones surroundings. It seems as if this must be included in the answer to the mindproblem because if not, then this aspect would be left out. In order to correct Naders argument, one would need to clarify his presuppositions. However, he does seem to make plausible points and hopefully this will be enough to deter other philosophers from sticking straight to physicalism. Otherwise, they must first reject the subjective nature of the mind in order to come to a truly valid conclusion. Critique on Thomas Nagels What it is like to be a bat? The mindbody problem has troubled philosophers for centuries. This is because no human being has been able to sufficiently explain how the mind actually works and how this mind relates to the body most importantly to the brain. If this

were not true then there would not be such heated debates on the subject. No one objects to the notion that the Earth revolves around the sun because it is empirical fact. However, there is no current explanation on the mind that can be accepted as fact. In What is it like to be a bat?, Thomas Nagel does not attempt to solve this problem. Instead, he attempts to reject the reductionist views with his argument on subjectivity. He examines the difficulties of the mind-body problem by investigating the conscious experience of an organism, which is usually ignored by the reductionists. Unfortunately, his arguments contain some flaws but they do shed some light as to why the physicalist view may never be able to solve the mind-body problem. In What is it like to be a bat?, Nagel attempts to distinguish between objective and subjective conscious experience. He begins his paper by explaining how consciousness is what makes the mind-body problem intractable (p. 534) and why reductionists must use this in order to come to a true conclusion about the mind. He uses the what is it like to be a bat example to support this argument because he wants to prove that the mind has a subjective aspect to it. However, this argument already begins with a flaw. This argument presupposes that a bat is a thinking, conscious being. He even states this prior to the bat example when he states Conscious experience is a widespread phenomenon. It occurs at many levels of animal life . . ., and then he goes on to state, We may call this the subjective character of experience. But we cannot presuppose this because of the mere fact that we DO NOT know what it is like to be a bat and therefore we do not know if a bat is a conscious being. I am not negating the fact that bats and other animals may have experiences and that these experiences are the results of being conscious animals. I am just saying that this has not yet been proven factually and it therefore cannot be used as a presupposition towards an argument. We can only infer

that other animals have conscious experience through our own perceptions. We can then make comparisons from our own conscious experiences using these perceptions but this is not sufficient to support an argument. Nagel then proceeds with his argument by demonstrating why we cannot know what it is like to be a bat. A human has an imagination and could therefore imagine what it would be like to have the characteristics of a bat. However, a human cannot imagine what it is like for a bat to be a bat. Nagel supports this by saying, if I try to imagine this, I am restricted to the resources of my own mind, and those resources are inadequate to the task. (p.536). I agree with Nader on this point. In order for me to experience what it would be like to be a bat I would have to make the actual transformation to a bat and there is no way for me to do that. The only other possible way for this to occur would be by a proper explanation about the mind of a bat but this too seems implausible because of the subjective nature of the mind I would also require the actual experience in order to really KNOW. Another objection can be raised to this argument. What if the conscious aspect of a bat is no different than the consciousness of a human being? Why must we adhere to Naders presupposition that being a bat is different than being a human. This does not mean that a bats intelligence is on the same level of a human or that bats can think at all or that bats can even have the same experiences as a person. I am just saying that if a bat has a conscious mind then why should the actual conscious aspect be different from that of a human being? Maybe once this conscious aspect is explained then we will be able to actually know what it is like to be a bat. He then goes on to say we cannot expect ever to accommodate in our own language a description of Martian or bat phenomenology. (p. 536). He holds this to be true because he believes that such an understanding may be permanently denied to us by the

limits of our nature and that we do not possess the vocabulary to describe it accurately. This may be true because of the fact that consciousness has yet to be described but it cannot be negated either. There may be someone in the future who will be able to describe the mind accurately. Unfortunately, this seems implausible at the moment because there seems to be no progress on the subject but this does not mean that it cannot be explained within the realm of our vocabulary. Nader also points out that the reason there has been no progress is because of the minds subjective nature and that this subjective nature embodies a particular point of view. For example, my conscious experience involves my particular point of view and a dogs conscious experience (if it has one) involves its own point of view. Nader explains that if the facts of experience facts about what it is like for the experiencing organism are accessible only from one point of view, then it is a mystery how the true character of experiences could be revealed in the physical operation of that organism. (p. 537). There is no doubt that experiences encompass a particular point of view. However, this does not prove that consciousness cannot be explained. There may be some aspect of consciousness which could be explained without having each individuals point of view accounted for. For example, the human mind may be able to be explained in general terms which could encompass the entire human race even though each individuals point of view is not accounted for. In fact, maybe that is all these point of views are a point of view which only defines that particular persons individuality. Thus, the fact that consciousness involves a particular point of view does not mean that it cannot be explained and maybe once it is explained then we will be better suited to understand each others experiences and points of view. However, Nader intends to use the point of view as the basis for his subjectivity argument. He

believes that the only way to understand the mind of a bat is to take a bats point of view. This does seem plausible. In order for me to truly know what it feels like to be a bat, I would have to transform myself into a bat. But as I stated before, consciousness would have to be proven in other animals before raising these arguments. Not many people would argue that primates or whales are conscious animals but how can this be proven and at what point to we draw the line? Can we say that a housefly is not conscious but a mouse is? What would be the basis of this argument? The only way to disprove this will be when consciousness is explained but maybe that wont even be enough. Furthermore, maybe consciousness does need the subjectivity of a point of view in order to be fully explained. If this is true then it seems like we will never be able to really know what it is like to be a bat because knowing its objective nature will just not be enough. He then explains why the current physicalist view does not work the view that mental events are physical events. He states that there is no clear explanation of what a mental event is; therefore, it cannot be said to be a physical event because we do not even know the nature of the mental event. I agree with this reasoning. How can someone say that something is something else without even knowing what that something is? However, Nader also points out that this may be proven in the future. There is no way for him to negate physicalism at this point so he does not do so, which aids in his quest because it demonstrates that he realizes his view may be incorrect too. Finally, Nader ends the discussion by saying that we are completely unequipped to think about the subjective character of experience without relying on the imagination. (p. 540). He believes that an objective phenomenology could be made which would describe someones experiences without the use of imagination. This description could encompass the subjective aspect of the mind objectively and

could therefore be described to a being incapable of those experiences. Unfortunately, this too seems implausible. Nader uses the example of explaining the color red to a blind person. However, there is no possible way for a blind person to know what red is until this person sees the actual color. Knowing red involves seeing red. He agrees that something would be left out (p.540), but what is left out is precisely what that blind person would need in order to really know red. Thus, Nader negates his own assumption. Although Naders arguments contain some flaws, he still demonstrates that the subjective aspect of the mind may need to be included in the answer to the mindbody problem in order for a true solution to be obtained. I do not believe that mental states can be explained with the simple firing of neurons. This explanation would leave out the conscious experience. Consciousness involves experience and an awareness of ones surroundings. It seems as if this must be included in the answer to the mindproblem because if not, then this aspect would be left out. In order to correct Naders argument, one would need to clarify his presuppositions. However, he does seem to make plausible points and hopefully this will be enough to deter other philosophers from sticking straight to physicalism. Otherwise, they must first reject the subjective nature of the mind in order to come to a truly valid conclusion.