Disembodied Brains
Murray (David)
Source: Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 1969-70, 121-140
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

  1. A recurrent fantasy appears among defenders of the Mind-Brain Identity Thesis, or Central-State Materialism: that of a disembodied brain. It is floating in vitro, and it is studded with electrodes which are wired to something or other; people look at it and say to each other, “It has a mind!” or even “It is a mind!” and on some accounts they send messages and it responds.
  2. The “logical possibility”, or “intelligibility”, of this fantasy is said to show “the impossibility of behaviorism or quasi-behaviorism”, or “of putting forward Behaviorism as the whole truth about the concept of mind”.
  3. If that were all, one might judge it a weak instrument employed in a good cause, and pass on; but the supposition that it is “intelligible” prompts further reflection. Materialists seem generally to class not only Malcolm and Ryle, but also Wittgenstein1, as (at least) quasi-behaviorists; so if something might be truly or intelligible said of a disembodied brain which Wittgensteinian2 doctrine must deny to be so sayable, it is a matter of some importance.
  4. I shall ask, what should we say about a brain in vitro? And then, what has this got to do with Wittgenstein3? And then, what has this got to do with Materialism?

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