The 1999 (First Edition) was on the reading list for the week 11 lecture Death and Eternal Life of the Heythrop MA Module “Philosophy of Religion”. I assume that this Second Edition is the most relevant. I have scanned the document into an OCR as it is unavailable commercially. Useful revision of Mind and Personal Identity, and an approach from a slightly different angle to that acquired at Birkbeck. The author is from Heythrop, and offers thanks to Gerry Hughes and Peter Vardy! Hard copy filed in "Various - Papers on Religion Boxes (Heythrop)".
University of London External Programme course-book for the Diploma in Theology and BD
Introduction – 1
Part 1: The metaphysics of mind and body – 9
Section 1: Dualism – 11
- Plato's Phaedo – 13
- Descartes' arguments for dualism – 21
- Other arguments for dualism – 31
- Criticisms of dualism: is substance dualism tenable? – 39
Section 2: Varieties of anti-dualism and materialism – 45
- Behaviourism – 47
- The identity theory – 53
- Functionalism – 61
- Davidson's anomalous monism – 69
- Criticisms of materialism — is the physical enough? – 75
Part 2: Personal identity and survival of death1 – 83
- The bodily criterion – 85
- Psychological continuity2 – 93
- What matters3 for survival and the logical possibility of resurrection – 101
Second Edition, 2000
"Thomas (Janice L.) - Mind and Person in the Philosophy of Religion: Introduction"
Source: Thomas (Janice L.) - Mind and Person in the Philosophy of Religion
- Introduction – 1
- Philosophy of mind and philosophy of religion – 1
- Why study about mind and person in the philosophy of religion? – 2
- Studying mind and person: how to use this guide in learning the subject – 2
- Essential and recommended reading – 3
- About the examination – 6
- The paper Mind and person in the philosophy of religion examines the concept of person, the mind/body problem, and their significance for religious belief, personal identity and immortality.
- Philosophy of mind and philosophy of religion: If you are reading this you are a person and have (or, perhaps better, are) a mind. What else goes along with this fact about you? What is it to have or be a mind? What is the nature of mind and what is the relationship between being (or having) a mind and being a person? How, in turn, are these related to being a self or, again, a soul? Are you one single something which can be described alternatively as
Or are you more accurately viewed as a cluster of separate distinct things — a sort of committee consisting of at least two mutually independent things:
- a person endowed with mental properties or powers, possessing the capacity to reason and decide as well as traits of personality and character
- a self, the conscious subject of sensory and non-sensory experiences including memories of your past and projects for your future
- a soul with moral responsibility and spiritual qualities and a prospect of immortality?
All of these questions are traditionally regarded by philosophers as the province of the philosophy of mind. For present purposes, philosophy of mind can be regarded as overlapping with and, in essence, forming a branch of the philosophy of religion.
- a living physical animal of the species homo sapiens and
- an immaterial substance — a thing untainted by any property shared with physical things?
- Activity: The question ‘What is philosophy?' has already been addressed in the introduction to your guide to Philosophy of religion. It would be worth reminding yourself what was said there, particularly about the nature and purpose of philosophical enquiry. The same four intellectual activities practised in philosophy of religion generally are all very important in philosophy of mind:
- metaphysics — the attempt to discover the fundamental nature of mind upon which all mental or psychological phenomena depend
- logic — the appraisal of arguments and reasonings about the nature of the experiencing subject to discover which ones are valid (i.e. conform to the rules of logic)
- epistemology — the endeavour to discover what is knowable about our own minds and the minds of others including the question what things, other than ourselves, are (or have) minds
- analysis — aims to clarify
… i. what people mean when they make certain statements about minds and persons and
… ii. how they justify those statements.
- Why study about mind and person in the philosophy of religion? There are three main motivations for choosing to study this subject:
- In the first place you may simply have an interest in finding out what the great thinkers of the past and recent times have concluded about the fundamental nature of thinking subjects — those entities that feel and act, make moral choices and are capable of aesthetic and religious experience — in other words, ourselves.
- Second, you may have an interest in the question of the very possibility of survival of death1. Whatever the claims of any particular religion about actual survival, it can be a fascinating question whether the belief that it is logically possible for a person to survive his or her own bodily death even makes sense. Certainly some thinkers have argued that the notion of personal survival of death2 is incoherent. If something is impossible or incoherent, it cannot be true. So anyone who feels inclined to accept the truth of resurrection as an article of religious faith should want to examine the case for and against the possibility or coherence of the notion.
- Finally, it may be that in studying for the paper in Philosophy of religion you have developed a taste for philosophical questions and enquiry and wish to extend your experience of such study into the area of philosophy of mind.
- Studying mind and person: how to use this guide in learning the subject
- You may be motivated by one, two or all three of the reasons just outlined. In any case it would be well to read straight through the guide first, without consulting any of the recommended reading, just to get a sense of which subjects are treated where and in what depth. Of course, some of it will not make much sense until you have read the books and articles to which the guide is meant as an introduction: try not to be discouraged by this. Remember that your first read-through is just for orientation and to help you begin to make a selection of topics on which to concentrate.
- After this first read-through, you may have a provisional list of six or seven topics you find particularly interesting. However, do not start by restricting yourself to those topics. Begin by working through all the topics in order and discover by trial and error which topics genuinely engage your interest and which feel like more of a duty! You are always likely to be more successful in an examination if you write on topics and questions that really puzzle you and hold your attention, ones that your mind comes back to outside study time, of its own accord. You should also soon discover which topics you really find easier and which, if any, turn out to be too difficult.
- The guide is divided into two parts: Part 1 focuses on ‘The metaphysics of mind and body', while Part 2 is concerned with ‘Personal identity and survival of death3'. There are nine chapters in Part 1 grouped into two sections: ‘Dualism' and ‘Varieties of anti-dualism and materialism', and three chapters in Part 2.
- Some of the chapter topics are relatively free-standing while others are related to their neighbours so that you would be best advised to work further on all or none. So Chapter 1 (on Plato's Phaedo) could be studied on its own while the next three chapters (on arguments for and against Descartes' substance dualism) are closely related and a good examination answer on a sub-topic dealt with mainly in one of them might well also use points made only in adjacent chapters. Chapters 6 and 9 are closely related as are 6 and 7. Chapter 8 on Davidson is relatively independent of others but could not be tackled before you at least read through the rest of the second section of Part 1. The three chapters of Part 2 are, like their topics, inextricably entwined with one another. You should plan to answer at least one examination question on the subjects in Part 2. This means that you ought not to concentrate your studies exclusively on Part 1 of the guide.
- In your progress through the whole guide and recommended reading, you should aim to spend roughly six to eight hours a week on ‘mind and person' if you are intending to cover it in a year. Of course, this is an average estimate and people differ in their ability to tackle very abstract, difficult academic subjects. This means that the amount of time you will need to study the material may be quite different from this estimate. Only you can tell how much reading over what periods and at what times of day results in the maximum accomplishment for you, although as a general guide many people find that the rule ‘little and often' works better than long concentrated sessions with long gaps in between.
- As you work your way through the whole guide, you should make some notes on all of the topics but make the most detailed notes on the topics you find most interesting. You will probably find it useful to revise by reading over your notes on your chosen topics and condensing them. It would also be a good idea to go back to some of the books and reread parts that seemed to you particularly important — perhaps because other writers referred to or criticised them. What you have learned by working your way through the entire subject may help you to understand more of what seemed less accessible earlier in the year.
- Essential and recommended reading
- A good dictionary of philosophy is a worthwhile investment. Lacey's Dictionary listed below is excellent: both the entries and suggested further readings are clear and helpful.
- ** Books which you should buy are indicated with this double asterisk.
- * This single asterisk indicates books that it would be helpful for you to own, but you don't need to buy all of them provided you can borrow them from or use them in a library.
- Many useful books on this subject will not be obtainable for purchase because they are out of print. Wherever a very important book is out of print, I have attempted to summarise the crucial passages in my text.
- Essential reading for the whole subject
- Essential reading for specific topics
- Further reading
- "Armstrong (David) - The Nature of Mind"
- Beakley, Brian and Peter Ludlow (eds) The Philosophy of Mind: Classical Problems, Contemporary Issues (London: MIT Press, 1992)
- "Braddon-Mitchell (David) & Jackson (Frank) - Philosophy of Mind and Cognition"
- "Block (Ned), Ed. - Readings in Philosophy of Psychology - Vol 1"
- Brown, Geoffrey - Minds, Brains and Machines. (Bristol Classical Press, 1989)
- Campbell, Keith - Body and Mind, (University of Notre Dame Press, 1984) second edition
- "Carruthers (Peter) - Introducing Persons: Theories and Arguments in the Philosophy of Mind"
- Crane, Tim - The Mechanical Mind: a philosophical introduction to minds, machines and mental representation. (Penguin, 1995)
- "Descartes (Rene), Cottingham (John), Stoothoff (Robert), Murdoch (Dugald) - The Philosophical Writings of Descartes Vol I"
… ‘Discourse on Method’
- "Flew (Anthony), Ed. - Body, Mind and Death"
- "Peacocke (Arthur) & Gillett (Grant) - Persons and Personality: A Contemporary Inquiry"
- (*) "Glover (Jonathan), Ed. - The Philosophy of Mind" (Oxford University Press. 1976)
- (*) "Guttenplan (Samuel), Ed. - A Companion to the Philosophy of Mind"
- "Haugeland (John) - Mind Design II"
- Heil, John - Philosophy of Mind: a contemporary introduction (Routledge, 1998)
- "Hick (John) - The Doctrine of the Resurrection of the Body Reconsidered".
- "Hick (John) - Death and Eternal Life"
- "Braddon-Mitchell (David) & Jackson (Frank) - Philosophy of Mind and Cognition"
- "Kripke (Saul) - Naming and Necessity: Lecture III"
- Lacey, A.R. - A Dictionary of Philosophy. (Routledge, 1990 third edition)
- Lewis, H.D. The Elusive Self (Macmillan, 1982), Chapter 3.
- "Lycan (William) - Mind and Cognition - An Anthology"
- "Lycan (William) - Functionalism"
- "Block (Ned) - Functionalism"
- "Madell (Geoffrey) - The Identity of the Self"
- Moser, Paul K. and J.D. Trout (eds.) Contemporary Materialism: a Reader. (Routledge. 1995)
- "Morrison (Kirstie) - The Self"
- "Noonan (Harold) - Personal Identity"
- "Nozick (Robert) - Philosophical Explanations"
- "Parfit (Derek) - Personal Identity"
- "Pears (David) - Wittgenstein".
- "Penelhum (Terence) - Survival and Disembodied Existence"
- "Place (U.T.) - Is Consciousness a Brain Process?"
- "Rosenthal (David), Ed. - The Nature of Mind"
- "Ryle (Gilbert) - The Concept of Mind"
- "Searle (John) - Minds, Brains, and Programs"
- "Shoemaker (Sydney) - Self-Knowledge and Self-Identity"
- "Smart (J.C.C.) - Sensations and Brain Processes"
- Smythies, J.R. and J. Beloff (eds) The Case for Dualism. (University of Virginia Press, 1989)
- "Strawson (Peter) - Self, Mind and Body"
- "Swinburne (Richard) - The Structure of the Soul"
- "Vardy (Peter) - The Puzzle of God". (London: Harper Collins, 1995), Chapter 18 'Eternal Life'.
- "Vesey (Godfrey N.A.) - Personal Identity: A Philosophical Analysis"
- "Ward (Keith) - The Battle for the Soul", Chapter 7.
- "Wiggins (David) - Sameness and Substance"
- "Wiggins (David) - Identity & Spatio-temporal Continuity"
- "Wilkes (Kathleen) - Real People: Personal Identity Without Thought Experiments"
- "Wittgenstein (Ludwig) - Philosophical Investigations"
- About the examination
- The examination will last for three hours. You will be asked to answer three questions chosen from a dozen or more spread among the 12 topics of the guide (although there is no guarantee that every topic will come up in every examination paper).
- You will always have a good choice. Since you will be asked to answer only three questions, you should have no difficulty finding enough questions you feel comfortable attempting to answer if you have prepared at least seven of the (chapter) topics, as I advised above.
- When revising your short-listed topics for the exam, it would be a good idea to try writing sample answers to the sample questions given at the end of each chapter of the guide. This will give you an idea of how much material is required to make an adequately long answer and will also tell you something about how successful you have been in committing the material to memory.
- The sample questions are intended to give you some indication of the sort of thing an examiner might ask about subtopics in each chapter area. Some questions are broader than others but it is unlikely that a single question will expect an answer which covers everything in a chapter. You will be expected to write in some depth on a topic narrower than that of any chapter as a whole and the questions will be worded in such a way as to point you in the direction of the part of the chapter topic required. It is always better to write clearly and accurately on just the ‘slice' of the subject asked about in the question than to drag in or mention everything you can think of that is even remotely relevant.
- In the section above on how to study, I advised that you prepare for the examination on at least one chapter topic from Part 2. If you decide to write on more than one question based on the material from Part 2, be careful to keep your answers from overlapping or repeating material. In general, it is wise to try to make your answers throughout the exam free from overlap and repetition.
- It is worth practising writing answers to time as the examination approaches. Effectively you have only 50 minutes to write each answer, and this is really very little: you need to practise getting the central points down first and then giving the supporting arguments and/or opposing points of view where appropriate. That is, try to structure your answer — with an introduction setting down the issue to be discussed, a central section stating the arguments and a conclusion that winds up the discussion. Spending a few minutes at the start on an outline of your answer should help with this, and ensure that you don't stray from the main points.
- Most important of all: do not try to compose and memorise answers. The sample questions will not reappear on the exam in the same words, asking exactly the same thing. You will do well only if you answer the questions that are actually on the specific examination paper in front of you on the day. Do not undermine all chance of success by writing answers to questions that are not there.
COMMENT: Hard Copy filed in "Various - Papers on Religion Boxes (Heythrop)".
"Thomas (Janice L.) - Plato's Phaedo"
Source: Thomas (Janice L.) - Mind and Person in the Philosophy of Religion
- Essential reading – 13
- Further reading – 13
- Introduction – 13
- Plato's arguments for dualism in the Phaedo – 14
- The cyclical argument – 15
- The recollection argument – 16
- The affinity argument – 17
- The argument from opposites – 19
- Learning outcomes
- Sample examination questions – 20
- Essential Reading
- Further Reading
- The part of reality with which you are most intimately acquainted is yourself. You must use your bodily senses to find out anything at all about the world that lies outside your skin. You must employ your capacity for reasoning and reflection to draw any — even the most simple — conclusions about the rest of reality from the data of sense. But it seems that on any ordinary occasion you need no sensory data and little if any reflection to know about yourself such things as whether you are happy or sad; feeling pleasure, pain, anticipation or guilt; thinking about philosophy or wanting your lunch.
- But your apparently automatic and unmediated self-knowledge has an obvious class of exceptions. You know that you feel unwell in some way but you need the verdict of a doctor to tell whether you have a bad sprain or a broken bone, whether you are suffering from a persistent cold or tuberculosis. Your body's condition is somehow both your own private state and part of the public world — accessible to others who may be far more expert at diagnosing its condition than you are yourself.
- You might easily conclude from all this that there are two 'you's: a bodily organism subject to all sorts of physical events and circumstances and an immaterial subject of experiences with a unique access to and knowledge about itself. Sensations, thoughts and feelings are the province of this subjective self. Taking up space in and having a physical effect on the (rest of the) material world is the job of the body.
- This ‘two-component view of human persons' as Smith and Jones call it has commanded the allegiance of Western philosophers since at least the time of Socrates. The first two chapters of this section will treat in detail the arguments in its support marshalled by Plato (in The Phaedo) and by Descartes (in The Meditations). The third chapter will examine critically arguments which other philosophers and ordinary people have put forward in defence of this view — which has always had, and continues to have, very wide popular appeal.
- To hold that reality (in particular, each human person) consists of two, utterly different, kinds of substance — material (bodies) and immaterial or mental (minds or souls) — is to subscribe to the metaphysical theory known as dualism. This is a ‘metaphysical' theory because it is a theory about the absolutely fundamental character of everything that exists. It does not deny the evident variety and richness of the world: there are countless, various things and people in the world whose difference one from the next is perfectly real. The dualist is simply persuaded that underneath this rich variety there are only two ultimate categories of thing — mental things and physical things.
- Typically, substance dualists believe that mind and body have completely different natures but that, different as they are, these two substances can and do interact. Going in one direction, such physical things as activity in your bodily sense organs and physical injury to your body produce such other things as sensations, images of your surroundings and pains in your mind. Going in the other direction, beliefs, desires, feelings and decisions in your mind seem to induce your body to move and to act in one way rather than another.
- Critics of this so-called 'interactionist substance dualism' question how two substances which are supposed to be of utterly distinct natures could possibly exert any sort of influence on one another. We will return to this objection later in the chapter.
- First, look at Smith and Jones 7-8 and Priest 1-8 (and Van Inwagen around 151, although his account is more difficult) for definitions of ‘dualism' and ‘interactionism'. Interactionism is not the only sort of substance dualism. ‘Epiphenomenalism' and ‘parallelism' are also terms for kinds of substance dualism whose meanings you should know. Make notes on the differences as you read.
- Substance dualism is not the only kind of dualism: at least one other sort of dualism is property dualism. (See O'Hear 211ff, especially 212.)
- You might also like to make a brief note of what you now regard as the correct view of the relationship between mind and body as you begin studying this subject. Are there two substances of radically different types in you? Are they independent of one another? If they depend on one another, is this a merely temporary dependence (so that they are capable of independent existence)?
- It is bound to prove interesting to you to see how what you read — and what you think about what you read — change or enlarge your initial views as your work for this subject progresses.
- Plato's arguments for dualism in the Phaedo
- You should begin by reading the Phaedo right through. Like many of Plato's dialogues, this is a fairly approachable work in that it can be read as a little drama - for the story, so to speak. A dialogue is a form which an author can use to make an otherwise somewhat arid philosophical argument or dispute come alive. Just as Descartes uses an informal, autobiographical form which invites the reader to participate in his philosophical excursion, Plato uses the dialogue form to invite the reader to identify with the point of view on mind and body and immortality that he favours. We naturally sympathise and want to side with the brave Socrates who, despite being on the brink of death himself, patiently tries to explain and convince his friends of the indestructibility of the soul.
- But Plato does not simply rely on literary devices to convince us. He offers four main arguments to prove, or at least rationally persuade us of, the truth of his position.
- You should look for these four arguments on your second reading of the text. At this point it will help to use Priest 8-15 as a guide. The four argument titles he employs are helpful labels: since there does not seem to be a completely standard usage among Plato commentators for labelling the arguments, I have adopted Priest's terms:
… the cyclical argument
… the recollection argument
… the affinity argument
… the argument from opposites.
(Some commentators suggest that (or at least wonder whether) Plato may have intended the four arguments to be four parts or cumulative stages of one big argument — each stage shoring up dubious parts of the preceding ones. This is an idea to bear in mind and perhaps return to at the end of your work on the Phaedo.)
- As you look at each argument in turn, first find the part of the text where the argument unfolds. Try to reduce it to premises which together imply a conclusion. Often this is not, straightaway, the conclusion that ‘dualism is correct' or that ‘each human person consists of two substances'. First, Plato argues to a conclusion which, if it is true, then dualism must be true too. His overall aim in the dialogue is to establish the immortality of the soul. Clearly, if the soul is immortal it outlasts its human body: if it were the same substance as the living body it is associated with, the two substances would have the same history and there would be no time when one existed and the other did not. In fact, they would be not two things but one. If the soul is immortal, therefore, and has a longer history than that of the body, then substance dualism is true.
- The cyclical argument
- The general principle or premise of this first argument can be stated as ‘opposites arise out of each other'. Socrates asks Cebes, ‘Does living have an opposite?', to which Cebes replies, ‘Yes, being dead.' So the second premise is ‘living (or being alive) and being dead are opposites.' From these two premises Socrates draws the conclusion that living comes to be out of that which is dead just as being dead comes to be out of that which is living. He takes this conclusion as evidence that there is reincarnation — a cyclical process in which life emerges from death and death is not the final end of anything.
- Should we accept the principle that opposites arise out of each other? First it must be said that it is not clear what is being claimed here. It is unarguable that any beginning of existence (say the birth of a baby or the making of a piece of pottery) can be described as a coming to be of something out of its opposite. The individual sperm and egg, the nutrients taken from its mother which nourished the growing foetus - none of these was itself a baby although it seems a bit odd to describe each of these things as ‘a non-baby' or ‘the opposite of a baby'. Similar things could be said of the clay from which the pot was made — the clay is not naturally thought of as ‘a non-pot'. The sperm and egg, the clay, seem to be simply ingredients in what comes into being. On the other hand, it seems less than obvious that death is an ingredient in the creation of life or that life is an ingredient in death.
- Priest finds two further weaknesses in the cyclical argument. Even if we accept the general principle that opposites arise out of each other, it seems open to question to say that death itself is a kind or mode of existence. Surely death is, rather, the end of being (and dying is a transition from being to not being at all). If Socrates is portrayed as assuming otherwise, then he would seem to be committing the mistake philosophers call ‘begging the question'.
- ‘Begging the question' means ‘assuming what you set out to prove'. Described thus baldly, it sounds like an error which only a fool or a scoundrel would make, but of course it is sometimes difficult to be sure about the buried assumptions underlying what we assert. In this case, it looks as if Socrates is in danger of assuming that being dead (i.e. being disembodied)1 is a mode or way of being for souls — which was what he set out to prove. However, it is clear that the cyclical argument is not meant to stand on its own as a proof — the subsequent arguments are meant to supply any deficiencies in the first.
- Before going on to the recollection argument, notice Priest's other criticism of the cyclical argument. Priest asks why we should accept ‘being dead' as the relevant opposite of ‘alive'. Would it not be equally or even more correct to regard ‘inanimate' or ‘not alive' as the opposite of ‘alive'? Then a living person would be something which has come to be out of ultimately inanimate or non-living matter (such as the food that nourished the baby's mother) and will, in eventually dying, return to its inanimate ingredients. Further argument is wanting to establish that a person who has ceased to be alive continues to exist as an immortal soul rather than as inanimate constituents.
- The recollection argument
- The recollection argument is designed to show that our souls existed before we were born. If this were true, dualism would also be true: if the soul predates the body, soul and body have distinct histories and are clearly not the same thing. How could one establish that the soul or mind existed before the bodily organism came into being? Plato's strategy is to show that a living person has knowledge he has not acquired since birth. If you know something in the present, you must have acquired that knowledge at some time in the past. If you did not learn it at any time since you were born, then you must have learned it before you were born. Plato is not suggesting that knowledge is acquired in the womb. Rather he is going to claim that (in fact, all) knowledge is acquired by the soul before it is united with its body.
- Plato's view of knowledge and its acquisition is certainly unusual. On his view, to have something worthy of the name of knowledge on any matter is to have contact with something perfect and abstract. Only an otherworldly entity like an immaterial soul can be the right sort of subject of such experience. Only otherworldly, eternal, perfect and unchanging objects (which Plato calls ‘the Forms' or ‘Ideas' — for example, ‘justice itself' or ‘beauty itself') can form the subject matter of such an encounter.
- And of course we do, in this life, have knowledge — we do, to take a crucial example, understand and know the meanings of certain words of our language (e.g. ‘beautiful' or ‘just'). Now these meanings, on Plato's view, are in fact whatever objects are denoted or picked out by those words (e.g. the beautiful itself or the just itself). But those objects cannot be objects of ordinary worldly experience because they just are, invariantly, whatever they are (beautiful or just or whatever it may be). In contrast, any object of worldly experience may be beautiful (just) from this point of view or to this person but not beautiful (just) from that point of view or to that person.
- So the most that earthly experiences of worldly objects can do is trigger memories (recollections) of the Forms, but that is all the ‘teaching' that experience can do. Our real learning of the objects that give meanings to our words must have been a (prenatal) encounter with the otherworldly objects (the Forms) themselves.
- In the Meno (another dialogue of Plato's) there is a famous scene in which Socrates elicits the answers to questions about the properties of certain geometrical figures from an unschooled slave boy who has clearly never been taught geometry. If the slave boy knew the answers (as he did) despite never being taught anything of the matter in this life then, Socrates maintains, he must have acquired the knowledge before his incarnation. His soul must pre-date his body. This doctrine from the Meno is appealed to again in the Phaedo, forming the basis of the Recollection Argument for the immortality of the soul.
- Socrates' friends, Simmias and Cebes, grant that this argument may prove the prenatal existence of the soul but object that it does not prove the soul's post-mortem existence. The Socratic answer to this objection is that the cyclical argument and the recollection argument need to be taken together and that together they indicate that there is a ‘perpetual reciprocity in coming to be' which strongly supports belief in immortality. Since, at the moment, we are looking at these arguments in the Phaedo only with a view to discovering how strong a defence they give to substance dualism (rather than the further claim that the immaterial part of the duo is immortal), we need to ask whether Socrates' friends are right in what they grant. Does the recollection argument prove the pre-natal existence of the soul?
- It must be conceded that the account of knowledge upon which the Recollection Argument so heavily depends is fraught with difficulties.
1. First, the existence of perfect Forms (as the content of knowledge) is highly controversial.
2. Second, the claim that knowledge is nothing but acquaintance with and recollection of immaterial Forms is, again, something that needs a strong argument in its defence.
3. Third, the sceptical view that we cannot gain any knowledge from experience (say, by using our senses) goes against common sense so powerfully that it would need an equally powerful philosophical argument to win our acceptance of it.
4. But in the present context, the gravest and most pertinent objection is that (fourth) the whole account of recollection relies on our accepting that there is a realm of the Forms, a part of reality which is abstract, immaterial, eternal and unchanging.
- To make this last assumption is to beg the question in favour of dualism once again. It is to assume that reality consists of two sorts of thing, material bodies and immaterial, abstract objects. From this assumption it is a very short step to the view that any human person consists of one substance belonging to the material part of reality and a second substance belonging by nature to the immaterial realm. Again, we have a persuasive picture rather than the sort of successful argument that we would welcome; one which would carry us from premises whose truth is already established to an independent conclusion not already assumed in the premises.
- The affinity argument
- The first premise of this argument is that while composite things (things made of parts) are liable to destruction, non-composite things are not liable to destruction.
- The second premise is that the soul or mind is non-composite — it has no parts. Socrates says that the soul has affinity with or is similar to the non-composite, never-changing Forms (e.g. being itself, the beautiful itself, the equal itself). The soul is like the Forms (akin to the Forms) also in being invisible.
- The conclusion must be that the soul, like the Forms, is indestructible. It will last for ever. And since it will last for ever although the body, being composite, will die and decay, the two things, having different properties and different histories, are genuinely two substances.
- As Priest points out (12), this argument (despite appearing to derive its conclusion by deductive reasoning from its premises) is once again vulnerable to the criticism that it begs the question. Another way to express this criticism is to say that the argument moves in a vicious circle. We must assume dualism before we can make sense of the soul's having properties (e.g. non-compositeness) the body lacks. All Plato is entitled to, until substance dualism is an established fact, is the weaker claim that people have both mental and physical aspects.
- Activity: Do you think that this weaker view (which is strongly supported by common observation) is enough to get some version of the affinity argument started? Write down your view.
- The really important objection is Priest's second point. It looks as if Socrates has not done anything to establish that soul and body are such that they cannot share the properties which are crucial to the characterisation of each. ‘A person has both mental and physical aspects' seems a truth of common sense. Why shouldn't we conclude that one kind of substance, one single substance, is capable of having both mental and physical properties?
- Simmias and Cebes each have an objection to the affinity argument. Each objection involves an analogy:
- Simmias objection
- Simmias compares what Socrates says about the soul with what could be said about the tuning of a musical instrument such as a lyre. The tuning of a lyre is something invisible and non-physical while the lyre itself is physical and destructible. But we do not conclude that the lyre's tuning will outlast the lyre. Similarly, we have no warrant to go from ‘the soul is invisible and non-physical' to ‘the soul will outlast its body'.
- Socrates has three replies to this. Each reply consists in pointing out a disanalogy, a way in which the comparison Simmias has made fails to be an exact comparison:
- 1. The lyre's tuning does not pre-date the lyre's existence. If it could, then we would have to ask seriously whether the tuning could not also outlast the instrument and we might feel that the answer should be ‘yes, it could'. But of course we feel that an instrument's being in tune depends (at least) for its existence on the continued existence of the instrument. In Lewis Carroll's book, Alice in Wonderland, there was a Cheshire Cat who left his smile behind sometimes: this is entertaining nonsense in a children's story precisely because, as we all know, a thing like a smile or the tuning of a lyre cannot exist independently of the smiling face or the well-tuned instrument.
- 2. Socrates' second reply is that the lyre and its tuning differ in another way from the body and its soul. In the lyre's case, the physical parts of the lyre have an effect on the tuning but the tuning does not in turn have any effect on the lyre. In the body's case, there is a two way causal connection. The soul affects the body (say, when a decision you make leads to your body's acting to carry out that decision). The body also affects the soul or mind (say, in sense perception when light entering your eyes leads your mind to have a visual experience of what lies in front of your eyes).
- 3. The third disanalogy Socrates finds between having a soul and being in tune is that being in tune can be a matter of degree — an instrument can be more or less in tune — whereas possession of a soul or mind is an all-or-nothing thing.
- Activity: Consider whether Simmias should give up his analogy or should be led by it to give up substance dualism. Make notes on your view.
- The argument from opposites: Cebes' objection to the affinity argument
- The analogy which Cebes uses to criticise the affinity argument is as follows. Even if it were a fact that the soul outlasts the body, this fact would not be enough to prove that the soul is immortal. After all, a man's cloak may outlast him but we do not argue from this to the immortality of cloaks.
- The argument from opposites is Socrates' reply to Cebes' objection.
1. The first premise is (as Priest puts it — 15) that it is impossible for something to possess and to lack a certain property in exactly the same respect.
2. The second premise is that the soul has life as a property in the same way that an odd number has its ‘oddness', as part of its very essence.
3. Therefore, the soul could not possibly have anything to do with death any more than an odd number could become even.
- So Cebes' analogy between a dead man and his soul on the one hand and, on the other hand, a dead man and his cloak fails: it is not an exactly parallel case. A cloak and a human body are both clearly material things so that their natures or properties are not true opposites. In contrast, the soul and the body are of opposite natures and properties. A soul is alive of its very nature and this, not its outlasting of its body, is what accounts for the fact that it cannot cease to be.
- Activity: Look again at each of the four arguments. Are any of them free from unwarranted assumptions? Do any of the arguments avoid assuming what they were meant to prove or establish? Make notes on the arguments and your own conclusions about them.
- Learning outcomes
- When you have finished working through the material in this chapter and the recommended reading you should be able to:
…Outline the four arguments for substance dualism in Plato's Phaedo.
…Examine them critically.
…Assess their success.
- It is unlikely that these arguments would carry conviction with anyone who was not already strongly inclined towards dualism since they all, in various ways, assume the substance dualism they need to prove if Plato is to succeed in the dialogue's primary aim of establishing the immortality of the soul.
- Sample examination questions
- Outline and assess critically Plato's arguments for mind—body dualism in the Phaedo.
- Discuss the arguments of any one philosopher for the view that the mind is a non-material substance. (This question could also be answered using Descartes' arguments to be examined in Chapter 2.)
COMMENT: Part 1 (The Metaphysics of Mind and Body); Section 1 (Dualism); Chapter 1. Hard Copy filed in "Various - Papers on Religion Boxes (Heythrop)".
"Thomas (Janice L.) - Descartes' arguments for dualism"
Source: Thomas (Janice L.) - Mind and Person in the Philosophy of Religion
- Essential reading – 21
- Further reading – 21
- Introduction – 21
- The argument from the possibility of doubting the body – 22
- Criticisms of Descartes' first argument – 23
- The argument involving clear and distinct ideas – 27
- The argument involving the indivisibility of the mind – 27
- Learning outcomes – 28
- Sample examination questions – 29
- Tips on answering the sample questions – 29
- Essential Reading
- "Priest (Stephen) - Theories of the Mind", 1991, Chapter 1,
- "Smith (Peter) & Jones (O.R.) - The Philosophy of Mind - An Introduction", 1986, Part 1, Chapters I—V.
- "Van Inwagen (Peter) - Metaphysics", pp. 149-57.
- "Descartes (Rene), Cottingham (John) - Meditations on First Philosophy - With Selections from the Objections and Replies", Meditations I, II and VI.
- Further reading
- Anyone who has heard of the French seventeenth-century philosopher, Rene Descartes, probably knows that he searched for a proposition which was immune from even the most determined doubt and found that proposition in the little sentence ‘I think therefore I am' (better known in the Latin version of the formula: 'Cogito ergo sum'). Descartes could not doubt his own existence at any time when he was thinking: in The Meditations and The Discourse on Method he used the ‘impossibility of self-doubt when thinking' as the leading thought in his main argument that his mind and his body were distinct, non-identical substances.
- Descartes himself thought that the reasonings and succession of thoughts in The Meditations formed a seamless whole and that no single argument could be lifted out and studied independently of its place in the total enquiry. Many thinkers have gone against Descartes' wishes, ignoring, for example, the cosmological argument for the existence of God in Meditation III in order to consider Descartes' use of hyperbolic doubt early in the work or his brief treatment of the ontological argument in Meditation V. The same fate (of being singled out and considered apart from the work as a whole) has befallen his arguments for substance dualism in Meditations II and VI. And it does seem that these arguments are comparatively free-standing and can be studied independently. However, in order to have some sense of the place of Descartes' discussion of dualism in his thought as a whole (which will help you understand the arguments better), you should begin by reading Meditations I, II, and VI straight through without taking notes, but trying to form a picture of the drift of his thought.
- Meditation II brings Descartes to his first certainty (‘I think therefore I am'), but leaves him wondering ‘What is this I of whose existence I am so certain?' When contemporary critics found fault with his arguments for the distinctness (independent existence) of his mind and his body in Meditation II, Descartes claimed that he had never offered arguments for his duality until Meditation VI. You might ask yourself as you read whether this claim is true: is Descartes trying to establish that he consists of two substances in Meditation II? Or does he only do so in Meditation VI (pp. 54 and 59 of the Cottingham translation)? Certainly there is a marked similarity between some points he makes in Meditation II and the argument for the distinctness of his mind from his body in The Discourse on Method (127). You might want to look up this passage in The Discourse as well.
- After this preliminary reading of Descartes, you are ready to look at his arguments for his dualism (sometimes referred to as ‘Cartesian dualism') in detail. As has already been indicated, there is controversy among Descartes scholars about where and what exactly Descartes' arguments for substance dualism are (see also Smith and Jones 37). But philosophers of mind seem agreed on one, which is often simply cited as ‘Descartes' first (or main) argument for dualism' (see Graham 133); this is an argument which turns on the possibility of doubting the existence of body.
- The second argument which will be summarised and discussed here is one which appears in Meditation VI and relies on Descartes' doctrine of clear and distinct ideas and his views on the creative power of God.
- Finally, also in Meditation VI, is an argument which, comparatively speaking, has been ignored by the commentators. This is something of a pity since, whereas the first two arguments are afflicted with fatal flaws, this third argument seems quite strong and — up to a point — successful. This third argument relies on distinguishing body from mind/soul on the basis of the physical divisibility of the body contrasted with the impossibility of giving a sense to the notion of physical divisibility when applied to the mind. You should find this third argument familiar from the Phaedo — it bears a striking resemblance to certain elements of the Affinity Argument for the immortality of the soul.
- The argument from the possibility of doubting the body
… "Priest (Stephen) - Theories of the Mind", 1991, pp. 24-25
… "Smith (Peter) & Jones (O.R.) - The Philosophy of Mind - An Introduction", 1986, pp. 36-39.
… "Van Inwagen (Peter) - Metaphysics", pp. 156-57.
- Descartes reaches a point in Meditation II where he is convinced that it is an unshakeable certainty that he exists. Of course he does not mean that he exists of necessity — he did not have to exist. History could have got along without him. Rather, he means that whatever he is thinking — if it is ‘I wonder if I exist', ‘I doubt that I exist' or even ‘I am convinced that I do not exist' — as long as there is something wondering, doubting or being convinced (however mistakenly), then it is true that that thinking something exists. So as long as he is thinking his existence is indubitable by him.
- But the same thing cannot be said of his body. He finds it altogether possible to doubt that his body or indeed any material substance exists. Surely, it is conceivable or imaginable that he might be a disembodied1 mind being systematically tricked into believing he has a body?
- It is worth pointing out that Descartes is not really afraid that his body does not exist. He is considering the grounds for his beliefs. For the belief that his mind exists he has the best possible grounds: it is in the very nature of the belief that he cannot suspend judgement about it. It would be irrational to think ‘I think there is some thinking going on (or a thinker here) but I could be wrong.' How could anyone wrongly think there was some thinking going on when there was not?
- This basis for belief in the existence of himself as a thinker is quite different from his basis for his belief in the existence of his material body. It might seem exaggerated caution or scepticism to suspend belief in the existence of your body but it is not absolutely against logic. Contrariwise, it defies logic to try to doubt or suspend belief about the existence of the very thing (a thinker) which is required if there is to be any doubt or suspending of belief. To doubt or suspend belief about anything is something only an existent thinker can do.
- So Descartes' first argument for dualism is this:
1. I can doubt (or suspend judgement about) the existence of my body.
2. I cannot doubt the existence of my mind.
3. My body and my mind are different substances.
- Behind this argument is a principle of reasoning which we all accept in many areas of life including, for example, when we are reading a detective story. Imagine a story in which the hero tries to prove that the heroine, who stands accused of the crime, is innocent. One way to prove this is to establish that she was not at the scene at the time the crime was committed. If he can prove her alibi she will not be convicted despite any damning circumstantial evidence against her. This is because if the heroine has a property the criminal lacks, she cannot be identical with (cannot be the same substance as) the criminal. And we may suppose she does have such a property — perhaps she was a hundred miles away when the crime happened and several independent and highly respectable witnesses can be found to testify to the fact.
- In general, if X has a property Y lacks, or Y has a property X lacks, then X and Y are not the same single thing — they are genuinely two. This principle is called (or is a version of) Leibniz' Law (after the philosopher who wrote and thought extensively about its implications).
- Although Leibniz came some years later than Descartes, it is usually said (for brevity) that the principle behind Descartes' main argument for dualism is this version of Leibniz' Law. Descartes is saying that his mind has a property (indubitable existence while he is thinking) which his body lacks. Also his body has a property (dubitable or doubtful existence) which his mind lacks. Since each has a property the other lacks they are definitely, Descartes believes, distinct substances.
- Criticisms of Descartes' first argument
- There are two main objections which have been levelled at this argument by many critics:
- First, there is the criticism that says that logicians and metaphysicians are well aware that there are exceptions to Leibniz' Law. Sadly for Descartes, his argument exemplifies two different sorts of exception to Leibniz' Law and thus is doubly flawed.
- Second, there is the criticism which points out that the form of argument Descartes employs here must be invalid. This is because we can construct many analogous arguments of exactly the same logical form or structure whose premises are (as in this case) true but whose conclusion is obviously or self-evidently false. If an argument form leads from true premises to a conclusion known to be false then it must be an invalid argument form.
- The first criticism: exceptions to Leibniz' Law
Reading: Look at:
- First exception
- Logicians have long been aware that two sorts of situation generate exceptions to Leibniz' Law. Remember the form of Leibniz' Law in question. It says ‘If X has a property Y lacks or vice versa, X is not Y.' Ordinarily (as in the alibi case), this is a very reliable rule. However, suppose that the property in question is one involving a psychological verb, such as ‘wants', ‘believes', ‘hopes for'.
- To take an example: perhaps as a matter of fact I have such a weak heart that a win on the lottery is just the thing the surprise of which would give me a fatal heart attack. The win might well be wanted by me while anyone would agree that the fatal surprise would not be wanted by me. I might set up an argument:
… The win is wanted by me (has the property of being wanted by me).
… The fatal surprise is not wanted by me (has the property of being not wanted by me)
… If X has a property Y lacks (or vice versa), X is not (identical with) Y.
… The win is not the fatal surprise.
- But of course it would be a mistake to argue that a win is not, and could not be, a fatal surprise just because the win is wanted by me and the surprise is not.
- Being ‘wanted by me' is not a property that can be used to distinguish one item from another. It is always possible that one and the same thing might rouse certain wants, beliefs and feelings in my mind in one situation and quite different or opposite psychological reactions in my mind in different circumstances, depending on the aspects it presents to me. I may see it in a certain light and characterise it one way while, unknown to me, it could also equally well be categorised another and opposite way.
- When Descartes uses the property ‘dubitable by me', he is using the psychological notion of doubting. But it is not difficult to see that I might find it easy to doubt something when it presents a certain aspect and yet find it impossible to doubt that very same thing when it presents a different aspect. I might find it impossible to doubt a claim I read which was written by a respected scientific authority and yet find it very easy to doubt the words of a pompous-seeming, ineffectual and rambling speaker at a meeting - even though, when I am introduced to the speaker, I find that he is in fact the scientific expert I have always (without being acquainted with him) respected. It was easy to doubt his words when I didn't know who he was.
- So too for Descartes. Ask yourself whether Descartes' capacity to doubt the existence of his own body could (or should) survive the discovery that thinking requires a physical organ (for example, a brain). Surely, if his existence as a thinker is indubitable, then so too is the existence of whatever items, physical or otherwise, turn out to be necessary conditions of thinking.
- Of course, Descartes does not believe that thinking requires the existence of any (part of a) physical body, but he cannot legitimately argue that because he can doubt the existence of his body his body could not (unknown to him) be a necessary condition of his thinking.
- Second exception to Leibniz' Law
- Since Descartes' first argument for dualism tries to use Leibniz' Law together with a property having a psychological aspect to show mind and body are distinct substances, it is already irreparably flawed. For completeness, however, it is worth adding that the notions of possibility and probability (and, indeed, necessity) operate in a very similar way to the way psychological notions work to create exceptions to Leibniz' Law. And Descartes' first argument involves possibility as well as the psychological notion of doubting.
- The easiest way to explain this is by means of an example. Suppose that you accept — what all biologists and human physiologists would tell us — that it is not naturally possible for a five-year-old child to be more than six feet tall. Now, wherever you happen to be right now, ask yourself whether it is possible that the next person who comes down the road may be over six feet tall. You are likely to say ‘Yes, it is possible; nothing in logic or natural law rules out that the next passer-by may be over six feet tall.' But it is easy to see that the following argument would not be right:
… The next person is possibly over six feet tall.
… A five-year-old is not possibly over six feet tall.
… If X has a property Y lacks or vice versa, X is not (identical with) Y.
… … Therefore,
… The next person will not be (identical with) a five year old.
- This argument cannot be right. We know that the next person to pass by could be a five-year-old: again, nothing in logic or natural law rules it out.
- The problem is that different descriptions can easily apply to a single individual (in this case, two applicable descriptions could be ‘next person' and ‘a five-year-old'). But different descriptions envisage different possibilities. Whether both or either or neither of those possibilities are genuinely open is a matter of how things are in the actual world, outside the head of anyone thinking about them. The person who actually comes along could be either a five-year-old or a six-foot-three adult or someone else altogether.
- Just because Descartes thinks it possible that his physical body does not exist while he cannot think it possible that his thinking self (his real self) does not exist, that does not prove that the two descriptions ('thinking thing' and ‘physical thing') could not, in actuality, outside Descartes' mind, apply to one and the same substance. Perhaps ‘physical things' are the only sorts of things there are so his thinking self, if it exists at all, must be one. Descartes' doubly flawed argument fails to establish otherwise.
- The second criticism: Descartes' argument is of an invalid form
- Reading: Look at:
… "Priest (Stephen) - Theories of the Mind", 1991, pp. 133-34.
… "Smith (Peter) & Jones (O.R.) - The Philosophy of Mind - An Introduction", pp. 40-41.
… "Van Inwagen (Peter) - Metaphysics", pp. 156-57.
- The second line of criticism which has been directed at Descartes' main argument for dualism is the criticism that the logical form or structure of the argument must be defective since exactly analogous arguments (ones with exactly the same logical form or structure) whose premises, like Descartes', are true, nonetheless have conclusions which are obviously or self-evidently false.
- In the readings listed above you will find a number of examples of arguments which have exactly the same form as Descartes' argument, whose premises are true and yet their conclusions are known to be false.
- See if you can invent an example of your own. The ingredients of such an example are as follows:
- You need a statement of identity which you know or accept to be true. A statement of identity has the form ‘A is the very same thing as B' or ‘A is identical with B' or just ‘A is B' (or ‘A = B'). A good example that Priest uses in a related context is ‘Dr Jekyll is (the very same person as) Mr Hyde'. (Or you could use ‘Clark Kent is Superman.')
- You need a description which explains the possibility of doubt about the person or thing mentioned in the identity statement. With the same example we could say, ‘No one is in doubt that (in the story) Mr Hyde committed many horrible murders' but such is the good doctor's excellent reputation that ‘Everyone doubts that Dr Jekyll is a villain.' ('Everyone doubts that Clark Kent is brave and strong.'; ‘No one doubts that Superman is brave and strong.')
- Now you need to construct an argument with two true premises about the entity referred to by each of the terms in your identity statement:
… No one doubts Mr Hyde's guilt.
… Everyone doubts Dr Jekyll's guilt.
… If X has a property Y lacks, or vice versa, X is not identical with Y.
… Mr Hyde has undoubted guilt (which Dr Jekyll does not have).
… Dr Jekyll is not Mr Hyde.
… No one doubts Superman is strong and brave.
… Everyone doubts Clark Kent is strong and brave.
… Superman has undoubted strength and bravery.
… Clark Kent is not Superman.
- The argument seems to disprove the identity statement you began by accepting. So - given that its premises are true but its conclusion (of non-identity) is false - it would be a mistake to regard the form of the argument as sound or valid.
- The argument involving clear and distinct ideas
- Reading: "Priest (Stephen) - Theories of the Mind", 1991, pp. 28-31.
- This argument, which appears in Meditation VI, has as a first premise:
- ‘…the fact that I can clearly and distinctly understand one thing apart from another is enough to make me certain that the two things are distinct…. capable of being
separated at least by God' (Cottingham 54).
- That is, if I can form a clear and distinct idea of something, God could arrange for that thing to exist independently of other things and indeed that thing could exist even if everything else had been annihilated.
- The second premise is that I can form a clear and distinct conception of myself as a thinking, non-extended thing and of my body as an extended, non-thinking thing.
- The conclusion is that I — the thinking, non-extended thing — am distinct from my body. Mind and body are distinct substances, each capable of existing in the complete absence of the other.
- The main criticism which this argument attracts is that the first premise simply does not convince us of its truth or at least it is hard to see that Descartes has established it. The fact that I have a fairly detailed and precise notion of what my mind is like and even of how different mind is from body, mental states from physical states, does not seem to provide any evidence that mind and mental states do not depend in any way on matter or body for their existence. As Priest points out, even if Descartes is right that thinking is one of his essential properties, he has given no evidence that it is his only essential property.
- Descartes relies heavily on conceivability and imaginability. Ask yourself whether you can conceive of or imagine your mind existing (or continuing) in the absence of your body (or indeed any body). Sometimes it is possible to picture things (imagine them in that sense) which, on reflection, one might want to deny are, strictly speaking, conceivable. For example, in animated cartoons characters are sometimes pictured falling from a great height, spreading like a puddle on hitting the ground and then springing up whole and apparently uninjured. Is imagining continuing to exist as a thinker despite the destruction of one's body like imagining that a living organism could be squashed (as in the cartoon) and yet continue living and functioning? Is it something we can picture which is nonetheless not genuinely possible?
- The argument involving the indivisibility of the mind
- Finally, Descartes gives an argument for dualism in Meditation VI which uses Leibniz' Law to prove non-identity, but does not fall into any of the traps or exhibit any of the flaws of earlier attempts to do so.
- Descartes argues:
… My body (like all matter) is divisible into parts which can be spatially separated from each other.
… My mind is indivisible (it is not divisible into spatially separable parts).
… The body has a property the mind lacks.
… … Therefore,
… Mind and body are different substances. (Dualism is correct.)
- This argument does not use a property defined in terms of a psychological verb (nor does it try to use one which involves possibilities) to distinguish one entity from another. It uses a perfectly unproblematic property - physical divisibility. Something which is physically divisible cannot be identical with (be the very same thing as) something which is literally indivisible in its nature. And many thinkers have believed the mind is an indivisible unity. So, Descartes would seem at last to have established the non-identity of mind and body.
- Do you think a sense could be attached to the notion of physically dividing, or dividing and spatially separating the parts of, the mind? We sometimes talk about mental conditions like schizophrenia as a kind of ‘fracturing of the self', but this way of talking is metaphorical (non-literal). The divisibility which Descartes thinks the body has and the mind lacks is literal.
- Suppose (as a kind of science fiction thought experiment)2 that a part of your brain were taken out of your skull and transplanted3 into the skull of another living person. Might not that transplanted4 part literally take a part of your mind to another place?
- Criticism of the argument for the mind's indivisibility
- The third argument does in my opinion succeed in proving that mind and body are not identical and do have different natures, neither of which can simply be reduced to the other. Where Descartes' argument falls down is that it provides no proof that the mind as well as the body is a substance.
- Think of it in terms of this analogy. My voice and I have some sharply distinct features which can be used to prove that I am not identical with (not the very same thing as) my voice. I am 5'2" and have brown eyes: my voice is not 5'2" or brown eyed. My voice is a light alto, but if I am an alto this is only by extension (a person is an alto if he or she sings most comfortably in this register). If I am rightly said to be ‘light', it is in a different sense (my hair or skin colour could be ‘light' in a sense opposed to ‘dark' or my weight might be considered ‘light' as opposed to ‘heavy'). But I as a person am not light as opposed to deep or strong (in the sense in which voices are deep or strong). These properties, true of my voice but not of me as a person, show that I am not to be identified with my voice, or it with me, but that does not incline me to think that my voice is a separate substance utterly, metaphysically, distinct from the person I am.
- Descartes still needs to prove that his mind as well as his body is a substance before he will have proved mind/body dualism in the strong version of this view to which he subscribes.
- Learning outcomes
- When you have finished working through the material in this section and the associated readings, you should be able to:
- Outline the three arguments for Cartesian Dualism which appear in Descartes' Meditations and Discourse.
- Explain, discuss and evaluate the success of both those arguments, and the criticisms which philosophers have addressed to those arguments.
- Sample examination questions
- Descartes claims that he cannot doubt his own existence when thinking whereas he can doubt the existence of his body. How does he try to prove substance dualism from this fact? Assess his success.
- Discuss the use Plato (in the Phaedo) and Descartes (in the Mediations) make of the idea that the soul or mind is indivisible.
- Tips on answering the sample questions
- In answering either of these questions, you should provide a brief definition of ‘substance dualism'.
- The first question asks for some mention of Leibniz' Law and how one form of it can be used to prove non-identity. The second question needs a discussion of what kind of divisibility is at issue.
COMMENT: Part 1 (The Metaphysics of Mind and Body); Section 1 (Dualism); Chapter 2. Hard copy filed in "Various - Papers on Religion Boxes (Heythrop)".
"Thomas (Janice L.) - Other arguments for dualism"
Source: Thomas (Janice L.) - Mind and Person in the Philosophy of Religion
- Essential reading – 31
- Further reading – 31
- Introduction – 31
- Mere matter – 31
- Where am I? Out-of-body experiences and locating the subject – 32
- The ordinary linguistic practice argument – 34
- A Cartesian supplementary argument — different properties, different subjects – 35
- The survival of death1 argument – 36
- Learning outcomes – 37
- Sample examination questions – 37
- Tips for answering the sample questions – 37
- Essential Reading
- Further reading
- So far we have considered four arguments from Plato and three from Descartes designed to prove, or otherwise justify belief in, substance dualism. In the chapters and pages referred to above, Smith and Jones list eight arguments (to which they give letters A to H) and Van Inwagen gives five arguments. We have already discussed Descartes' main argument (which Smith and Jones call ‘H' and Van Inwagen treats first). In this chapter we will look at the remaining arguments in both books. Many of these are arguments which ordinary people rather than professional philosophers find persuasive.
- Even if all the arguments we encounter were irreparably flawed it could still be that substance dualism is the right theory of mind and body. A theory is not disproved if its main supporting arguments are seen to be mistaken — although, of course, it lacks support. So, in this chapter, we will look at the other main criticisms that have been levelled against dualism which attempt to show that the doctrine itself is untenable or incoherent. The other arguments for dualism to be examined are termed here:
… mere matter argument
… out-of-body argument
… ordinary linguistic practice argument
… different properties argument
… survival of death2 argument.
- Mere matter
… "Smith (Peter) & Jones (O.R.) - The Philosophy of Mind - An Introduction", 1986, 18-21.
… "Van Inwagen (Peter) - Metaphysics", 1993, pp. 157-64.
- The arguments discussed in both books try to establish substance dualism starting from our instinctive feeling that mere matter — what takes up space in the world — is too humble, ordinary or undynamic to have or support a mental life. Some immaterial principle, over and above the stuff our bodies are made of, seems to be required in order to produce a thinking, acting subject of experience.
- The typical argument runs:
… Mere material objects (think of rocks or bricks) are incapable of thought, feeling or sensation (or deep, sublime thought, feeling or sensation).
… But we persons with minds/souls definitely do think, feel and sense
… … So we can conclude:
… Persons (subjects with minds) are more than mere material objects (bodies).
- The main criticism of this argument asks, ‘Why should we accept the first premise?' The critic of dualism should respond, ‘Of course, material things like rocks and bricks are incapable of thoughts and feelings (deep or shallow, trivial or sublime), but this is because such material things as rocks and bricks lack the appropriate sophistication and structural complexity. There is no reason why a complex, sophisticated physical system like a living organism with a developed brain and central nervous system should not be possessed of mentality and the capacity for rich sensory, intellectual, aesthetic, moral, religious etc. experiences.'
- At the very least, we know that both injury to the brain and exposure of it to certain drugs are associated with specific deficits and losses of mental function. It is hard to resist the view that the brain and what happens to the brain are responsible for what happens to and in the mind, and that the sophistication of our mental life depends somehow on the physical sophistication and complexity of the human brain and central nervous system.
- Smith and Jones, in their argument D, consider the further contention that ‘mere matter on its own is not capable of displaying the behavioural sophistication of human persons.' This, as they point out, simply begs the question against anyone who wants to claim that some exclusively physical device or artefact (like an advanced computer or robot) does behave or, at least, is capable of behaving with that sort of sophistication.
- Remember that ‘begging the question' is ‘assuming what you have set out to prove'. This attempt to prove dualism just assumes that nothing exclusively material could behave with the sort of elaborate complexity that the actions of conscious, minded subjects display. Thus, it illegitimately guarantees in advance the conclusion that wherever such sophisticated behaviour appears there must be an immaterial agent.
- Where am I? Out-of-body experiences and locating the subject
- Moore's argument
- This can be very simply put:
… I am closer to my hands than to my feet. (Van Inwagen suggests that you look down at your hands and feet and ask yourself which of them seem closer to you.)
… Thus I occupy a different region of space from that occupied by my body.
… Therefore, I am a different thing from my body.
- Notice what Van Inwagen says about Moore's argument actually not being an attempt to prove that I am two sorts of substance, one physical and the other non-physical. As far as Moore's argument is concerned the ‘I' could be a physical thing (my brain, or part of it, for example) while my whole body is just a second, distinct (equally physical) thing.
- But the argument involving out-of-body experiences would — if successful — establish the strongest kind of substance dualism. Look again at Graham's summary/paraphrase of a typical out-of-body experience (22). Graham's Gloria says, ‘I was just floating up near the ceiling. It was a weird feeling because I was up there and this body was below.' To look down on your body as a spectator is, apparently, to be a different, distinct substance from your body since you can be somewhere it is not. If you can leave your body, you and your body are not the same substance.
- Why have critics not been persuaded of the distinctness of mind and body by either Moore's argument or the out-of-body argument?
- Against Moore's argument
- Van Inwagen points out that we naturally tend to locate ourselves at the centre of the environment reported on by our bodily sense organs. You will probably feel, before you come to think carefully about it, that you are where your major sense organs (especially your eyes) are to be found (i.e. in your head). But this is an entirely subjective matter. Someone endowed, untypically for a human subject, with touch but not with sight or hearing (like the blind, deaf American woman, Helen Keller) might well locate herself more where her hands and arms were and think of her head as comparatively remote from herself.
- Against the out-of-body argument
- Smith and Jones make the point that if a report of an out-of-body experience is to have a chance of providing a reliable foundation for the pro-dualist position, some way needs to be found of escaping the judgement that all out-of-body experiences are hallucinatory. To believe or feel (however vividly) that you have left your body and seen your body from a distance is one thing: actually to have done so is another.
- A friend of dualism who was persuaded that reports of out-of-body experiences are (at least sometimes) genuine reports of episodes in which an immaterial self leaves its material body might suggest the following way to disprove the charge of hallucination. Arrange for there to be information out of reach of the body which remains at ground level, information which only an observer at ceiling level could perceive. If someone can produce that information after a putative out-of-body experience where his or her body was known to have remained down below, then this might seem to confirm the hypothesis of separation of two distinct substances.
- There are reports of experiments conducted by an American psychologist doing research on sleep and dreaming in which a subject who was prone to what seemed to him to be out-of-body experiences in sleep was able to read and memorise a four digit number that had been randomly generated by the experimenter's colleague and placed behind a shield at ceiling level above the subject's bed from outside the room after the subject was asleep. The trouble is that this experiment has never been successfully repeated with different subjects or with that subject at a later period.
- On the other side of the debate, neurophysiologists and pharmacologists have in recent years made substantial progress towards understanding the many and various chemicals manufactured by and affecting the different parts of the brain. There is some evidence that specific chemicals typically released in the brain in moments of severe trauma can induce images and subjective feelings very similar to those that are described by those who feel that they have had out-of-body experiences.
- Until there is substantial, repeatable and unequivocal experimental evidence on one side or the other, it might be argued that the verdict of ‘not proven' is the only safe judgement to reach about the claim that out-of-body experiences are real evidence in support of substance dualism rather than hallucinations induced perhaps by the subject's own neurochemical activity.
- Smith and Jones, however, go further than this ‘not proven' verdict. They contend that we are prone, unreflectively to judge that the self, the subject of experience, is located at the point from which we perceive whatever objects are experienced. But they find this unreflective judgement unwarranted (their reason is clearly set out on 23).
- A further reason for rejecting it might be the following. If at a sporting event or parade, say, a spectator sees the action with the aid of a periscope or if a security guard has the job of keeping tabs on a shop or bank using closed circuit television, the spectator or guard will, in a sense, see what is happening from a place or point of view other than where his or her body is located. But in such a case we do not conclude that the person has departed from his or her body to occupy the second mirror of the periscope or the remote control camera. Just because we do not know what the mechanism of remote perception might be in alleged out-of-body experiences, that should not make us think that an immaterial substance somehow leaves the body. We should judge (as Smith and Jones do) that our only legitimate conclusion is that the subject somehow sees further than we do.
- These last points (about the as-yet-provisional and exploratory neurochemical research and the argument about the relationship between the location of the perceiver and his or her point of view) are being allowed by their proposers to decide the argument with a verdict against substance dualism. Their proposers do not claim these points are decisive in the way that a deductive argument is decisive. Deductive arguments guarantee (entail) their conclusions. But these two arguments invite us to judge that the balance of probabilities is on the side of what they would no doubt describe as the less extreme, more plausible position.
- The ordinary linguistic practice argument
- Reading: "Smith (Peter) & Jones (O.R.) - The Philosophy of Mind - An Introduction", 1986, pp. 24-25.
- Many of the things we would normally and naturally say about a person are precisely things we would not normally or naturally say about a person's body. We say, for example, that ‘Jack (the person) solved a quadratic equation' or ‘Jill (the person) met the Prime Minister', but we do not say ‘Jack's body solved an equation' or ‘Jill's body met an eminent political figure'. Yet, surely, if the word ‘Jill' and the phrase ‘Jill's body' denote the same thing we ought to be able to use these expressions interchangeably, saying now ‘Jill' and now ‘Jill's body', whichever we prefer at the moment. Since we clearly do not regard ‘Jill' and ‘Jill's body' as perfectly interchangeable in speech, perhaps we should realise that a person and her body are distinct things.
- The anti-dualist has only to repeat the point made in reply to Descartes' third argument above (Smith and Jones 24): Jill (the person) and Jill's body are different things, but so far there is no proof that they are different substances or that either is an immaterial substance.
- As Smith and Jones rightly say, the two expressions denote separate aspects of Jill: ‘Jill's body' denotes ‘Jill in so far as her more corporeal aspects are concerned' while ‘Jill' denotes the whole person but principally her subjective side - her personality, character, sense of self and so forth.
- Finally, as Smith and Jones conclude (28), not only does the argument fail to show that our ordinary linguistic practice commits us to dualism but even if it were shown that our everyday ways of talking were dualist, that would go no way towards showing that dualism is true. Common sense ways of doing or saying things can be profoundly wrong.
- Notice the ways in which, when you are not studying philosophy, you find yourself — and hear and see others — talking and writing about individual persons and their various aspects. Does there seem to you to be an ordinary language bias in favour of dualism? If you know, and regularly use, a language other than English it may be particularly interesting to see whether the bias (if there is one in either direction!) is as strong in that language as some have found it to be in English.
- A Cartesian supplementary argument - different properties, different subjects
- Reading: "Smith (Peter) & Jones (O.R.) - The Philosophy of Mind - An Introduction", 1986, pp. 17-18.
- Although he did not regard it as a proof of dualism, Descartes was much impressed by the persuasive power of a thought which often seems to move ordinary people in the direction of the substance dualist view of the nature of persons. This is the thought that if you find two radically different sorts of activity going on (or two very different sorts of property being exemplified) it is a common sense inference to make that these different properties and activities are being performed by or are grounded in numerically different subjects.
- So if, on the one hand we have something which is thinking, feeling, sensing and reasoning, and on the other hand we have something which is 5'2", weighs eight stone and is sitting, writing then we would be right to conclude that the two somethings are distinct, individual things. Thinking and taking up space are such different properties or activities that it is only sense, on Descartes' view, to think they must be the properties or activities of different subjects.
- Descartes is right not to think of this as any kind of proof. For one thing, it leaves unanswered the crucial question, ‘How different (and in what ways) must one property be from another before it guarantees (or even suggests) a numerical difference between the subjects of the two properties?' Surely a thing which is coloured will also have a shape (one thing can have both colour and shape), and yet colour and shape seem very different sorts of property. The same point could be made about the psychological properties or activities of, for example, ‘fearing a drought' and ‘thinking of a friend'. Surely one single mind could easily — perhaps even simultaneously — have both thoughts or feelings.
- More importantly, the whole issue between substance dualists and their opponents is the question of whether a single subject can be the subject of both physical and psychological (mental) properties. In trying to answer this question, we could employ the analogy of a craftsman with two tasks he wants to perform. The question arises, ‘Is there a tool which will do both jobs?' Some tools are multi-purpose and can do many jobs. (An example might be a knife-grinder which can also be used to cut keys and repair shoes.) Some tasks are so specific that it is hard to imagine a tool which could do that and also be turned to some other very specific task. (Could a tool capable of incising a pattern on crystal also be adapted so it could be used to fell trees?)
- Everyone recognises that being afraid and weighing a certain amount are very different kinds of property. The question is whether one multi-purpose subject is enough. Could something that can have feelings also weigh a certain amount? Descartes does not try to promote his commonsensical observation into an argument because he knows that it would simply become another instance of begging the question.
- The survival of death3 argument
- Reading: "Smith (Peter) & Jones (O.R.) - The Philosophy of Mind - An Introduction", 1986, pp. 28-29.
- Suppose that you hold, as an article of religious faith, that although your body will be destroyed at or not long after your death, you yourself will survive and live on after that time. You might then argue, using the version of Leibniz' Law we looked at earlier:
… I will survive my body's death.
… My body will not survive my (body's) death.
… Therefore, I am not my body.
- Smith and Jones find that this argument is valid ('The move from the premises of this argument to its conclusion looks safe enough', 28) but, of course, point out that it depends crucially on the truth of its first premise. Unless a proof of that premise is forthcoming, the whole argument simply begs the question against the opponent of substance dualism (i.e. it, like so many others we have met, simply presumes the dualism it is designed to prove).
- Smith and Jones also discuss the possibility that some Christian authorities (whatever other religious authorities may say) construe the promise of eternal life in the following way. They distinguish ‘ordinary death' from ‘the final destruction of the body' and affirm the resurrection of the body for believers at some point after this life has ended in ‘ordinary death'. If your body is not going to be destroyed by death (although it may be transformed or renewed in some way) then the second premise above is false and dualism is not proven by the argument. As Smith and Jones put it, ‘the promise [of eternal life] can be redeemed even if dualism is false' (29).
- Some critics of the survival of death4 argument are much harsher. They simply deny even the logical possibility of life after death5 or survival of death6. This is to deny premise one outright. For Anthony Flew, for example, the expression ‘survival of death7' is like ‘round square'. For a figure to be round it must be the case that every point on it is equidistant from the centre of the figure. But if a figure meets this requirement, it simply cannot (logically cannot) meet the requirements a figure must meet if it is to be square — for example, it cannot have four straight sides. So a round square is a logical impossibility.
- Flew would maintain that survival of death8 is impossible for just the same sort of reason. For someone to be a survivor seems clearly to require that the person in question be still living. But to be still living just is not to have died. To meet the condition for dying just is to do what contradicts the very essence of survival.
- Some thinkers who follow Flew this far would go further and argue that, if there is a person who is living after your death — no matter where and no matter how similar to you in physical appearance or apparent memories or personality — that person cannot be you surviving because your death will be followed by some time (at least an instant, probably much longer) when you do not exist and (as they would say) ‘temporal gaps extinguish identity'.
- This whole question of what is required for personal identity or persistence over time and the question of the logical possibility of survival of death9 needs detailed investigation and discussion and will form the subject matter of Part 2 of this guide.
- Learning outcomes: After working through the topics in this chapter you should be able to:
- Summarise each of the five arguments discussed in this chapter.
- Outline the defences offered by their supporters for each of the arguments.
- Outline and evaluate the criticisms of each.
- Sample examination questions
- Would out-of-body experiences (if there were such things) prove that soul and body are distinct substances?
- Criticise the argument that because I am going to survive my death and my body is not, my soul and my body are different, distinct substances.
- Tips for answering the sample questions
- An answer to the first question should start with an explanation of what is meant by the phrase ‘out-of-body experience'. You should say (giving your reasons) whether or not you think anyone has ever had an experience which would correctly be described using that phrase. Then you should discuss what would be implied about substance dualism by a genuine, non-hallucinatory case.
- Both questions expect an answer which mentions Leibniz' Law and the way in which it can be used to prove non-identity.
COMMENT: Part 1 (The Metaphysics of Mind and Body); Section 1 (Dualism); Chapter 3. Hard copy filed in "Various - Papers on Religion Boxes (Heythrop)".
"Thomas (Janice L.) - Criticisms of dualism: is substance dualism tenable?"
Source: Thomas (Janice L.) - Mind and Person in the Philosophy of Religion
- Essential reading – 39
- Further reading – 39
- Introduction – 39
- What is immaterial substance? – 40
- Genuine entities are countable – 41
- Evolutionary considerations – 42
- Interaction between the immaterial and the physical – 43
- Learning outcomes – 44
- Sample questions – 44
- Tips on answering the sample questions – 44
- Essential Reading
- Further reading
- As the Introduction to the last chapter notes, a theory is not disproved by showing that arguments in its favour are flawed, unless every imaginable support for the theory is equally undermined (and even then at any time a supporter of the theory could come forward who has imagined a totally novel defence). Dualism is not proven to be wrong by showing that the major arguments which have been given in its defence so far are all vulnerable.
- We turn now, however, to criticisms of dualism which have been directed at the very notion that reality consists of two, utterly metaphysically distinct, kinds of substance — one physical or material and the other spiritual or immaterial. These four criticisms aim to show that substance dualism is untenable. When they have been looked at in detail, we will then turn to consider substance dualism's major rival — materialism.
- The four criticisms are:
… the mysteriousness of immaterial substance
… genuine entities are countable and immaterial substances are not
… an argument from evolutionary considerations
… the difficulty of explaining how an immaterial mind and an exclusively physical body could interact.
- What is immaterial substance?
… "Churchland (Paul) - Matter & Consciousness", 1984, pp. 18-19.
… "McGinn (Colin) - The Character of Mind - An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind", 1982, pp. 23ff.
… "Smith (Peter) & Jones (O.R.) - The Philosophy of Mind - An Introduction", 1986, pp. 45-46.
- When McGinn says, ‘it is quite unclear that there is any intelligible conception associated with the words "immaterial substance", he is expressing in a brief, pithy form a sentiment which many critics feel. Immaterial substance feels like a very mysterious thing indeed. We do not know anything positive about it. We know from its supporters only what it is not. We know that it does not have a physical location or any other spatial properties, and that it cannot suffer any sort of corruption or decay. The laws of physics have no application to it nor do any of the principles of chemistry, biology or any of the other natural sciences. If it is governed by its own laws, we have no idea what they are.
But is there really something (could there be something) of which all these negatives are true? Is immaterial substance not a contradiction in terms? When we describe something as ‘immaterial' or ‘non-material', surely we mean to say, among other things, that it is not substantial.
- In any event, trying to give an account of the nature of mind by positing an immaterial substance to furnish the locus of mental phenomena and be the thing that has mental states is like referring to the 'dormative power' of a sedative in order to explain its capacity to put people to sleep. To say that I can reason and use language, have feelings and, indeed, all my experiences in virtue of having somehow ‘in' me (or connected with me) an immaterial substance explains nothing.
- In contrast, as Churchland says, modern neuroscience already has impressive explanatory resources. It can tell us much about the internal constitution and the constitutive elements of the brain, and the laws governing their behaviour. It can then draw connections between brain constitution, activities and defects and bodily behaviour, and it can explain human capacities and pathologies in terms of those brain structures and defects. In studying such things as depression, motivation, attention, vision and sleep, neurologists and neuropharmacologists (nerve specialists and brain chemists) have discovered numerous interesting facts about the neurochemical and neurodynamic basis of sensation, perception and consciousness.
- Meanwhile, the science of artificial intelligence has learned a great deal about the nature of certain sorts of reasoning and has perfected machines which can make complex and sophisticated deductions, mathematical calculations — and make them far faster than any human reasoner. The claim that only an immaterial mind can reason would seem to have been disproved in the computer workshop.
- Of course, there are still a great many mysteries about the nature of mind, but the physical sciences can rightly claim to have had enormous success. And it seems clear that they have had that success because they start from the assumption that the various functions and capacities of the mind and mental states are dependent for their character and qualities on the nature and detailed character of the working of the various parts of the brain and central nervous system.
- There are many scientists who insist that once you know all about the brain in the minutest detail, you will also know all there is to know about mind and mental states because the latter are nothing over and above the brain (and central nervous system) and its states. But it must be said that the dualist is making no logical mistake in continuing to deny the identity of mind and brain, mental states and brain states. The dualist can insist in reply that immaterial substance is real and necessary — if not, so far as science has revealed, to the nature and functioning of mental life, then perhaps to account for the persistence of individual minds over time, particularly beyond death.
- The opponent of dualism is likely to respond to this last point by maintaining that immaterial substance as a principle of identity is another mystery whose demystification we are entitled to continue to demand from the dualist. In Part II of this guide, we will look in detail at the traditional puzzles and problems that arise when you try to account for — what almost everyone agrees seems to be true — the fact that persons persist over time.
- Genuine entities are countable
… "Smith (Peter) & Jones (O.R.) - The Philosophy of Mind - An Introduction", 1986, pp. 46-49.
Also, if you can, read:
… "Strawson (Peter) - Self, Mind and Body", which rejects Cartesian dualism as incoherent and accepts some form of materialism as the only viable alternative.
- If you are asked to count how many persons or minds there are in the room at the moment you should have little difficulty carrying out the request (unless you are in a packed sports hall or crowded cathedral at the time!). You will know exactly what to do: you will count all the human beings. Even if twins joined from birth are present there should be little problem, so clear are we about how much of what goes on is one human body.
- But what if the substance dualist is right that the mind is a quite distinct entity from its body? How can anybody — even a staunch believer in dualism — count persons in the sense of ‘immaterial substances'? We might think, commonsensically, that there is one and only one for every living human body. But nothing in the definition of immaterial substance supports this claim.
- This is important because what cannot be counted cannot be individuated and identified. That is, if we do not know how much of what goes on is one individual thing (of a particular type) we can't say whether ‘it' has persisted, whether something we are encountering now is the same one we encountered earlier. A genuine entity, one whose history we can trace and which we can reidentify from one time to another, must be capable of being counted as one and distinguished from others of its kind at any point in its history.
- What follows are five arguments with which a dualist might try to show that immaterial substances are distinct, definite, countable things. Notice that none seems to succeed in its purpose.
- 1. Immaterial substance is conceived on an analogy with material substance. But the signal difference between them is that immaterial substances have no corporeal characteristics. So although individual material substances have boundaries and only one can occupy a given place at a given time, immaterial substances can have no boundaries we could use to distinguish one from another.
- 2. A single human body will normally have a known compliment of organs (one heart, two lungs etc.) so another crude criterion (besides physical outline or boundary) is available if we are counting human beings. However, there are no immaterial organs that we know of in the immaterial mind so again there is no immaterial analogy we can draw to help with distinguishing and counting immaterial substances. There seems to be nothing to block Strawson's suggestion to dualist Professor X (discussed by Smith and Jones on 47) that there may be a thousand souls simultaneously thinking the thoughts his words express. Any number of (indistinguishable) immaterial minds might be associated with any one living human body or brain.
- 3. The dualist is likely to say that it is the mind's contents which define the unique individual. Only you have the unique collection of thoughts, feelings, memories, preferences, prejudices, projects etc. which are your own. And this may well be true in fact. But of course one can easily imagine an exactly similar collection constituting or associated with a second mind. There is nothing logically impossible about the idea of legions of immaterial minds, all — as far as mental contents go — exactly alike to the minutest detail, being associated with any number of living human bodies you care to mention.
- 4. In introspection, you seem to yourself to be a single subject whose experiences are united by self-consciousness with your memories and plans, emotions and feelings, into a single mind. But there is no guarantee that it is a single dualist mind you have access to in introspection. What would be the difference in ‘feel' between introspecting a single immaterial substance and introspecting several?
- 5. Finally, it might be said that an immaterial substance may consist of just one portion of mind stuff. But who can say how much that is? The same difficulties (about how to count such things) afflict the notion of ‘a single portion' as afflict the notion of immaterial substance itself.
- Since there is no way of distinguishing immaterial substances from one another and counting them, the conclusion seems difficult to escape that they are not genuine entities.
- Evolutionary considerations
… "Smith (Peter) & Jones (O.R.) - The Philosophy of Mind - An Introduction", 1986, pp. 49-52.
… "Churchland (Paul) - Matter & Consciousness", 1984, pp. 20-21.
- The pictures given by Smith and Jones and Churchland of how the human species evolved are alike in all essential details. Both accounts stress that a gradual and entirely physical process of (mostly tiny) incremental changes compounding and compounding has, after many millions of years, produced a very complex organism with a nervous system which permits guidance of action apparently by thought. There seems no point at which immaterial mind stuff could, all at once, enter the picture. Humans have too many features that seem to require a mind in common with the species which are their evolutionary neighbours for it to seem plausible that, suddenly, with the emergence of the human species, immaterial substances began to have the crucial role dualists claim for them in thought, feeling, perception and conscious experience generally.
- Many evolutionary theorists would maintain that there are no sudden lurches and jumps in the process of evolution. They would claim that evolutionary history has not discovered any sudden appearances of fully developed complex mechanisms and structures. In early species, a very rudimentary stomach, say, or eye may be found from which gradually, over many millennia and through changing environments, can be traced the development of more and more complicated and sophisticated organs and structures evolving eventually into highly complex and specialised digestive or visual systems.
- So too with the central nervous system and brain. It seems much more likely that the kinds of thoughts and feelings experienced by us developed out of the less sophisticated activities of the simpler brains and nervous systems of our evolutionary ancestors than that our cognitive capacities were somehow superadded with the introduction of an exclusively human spiritual substance.
- Consider the alternative view that perhaps immaterial substances are universal throughout sentient nature but that they have had to evolve in step with the natural creatures whose immaterial partners they are. What has this view to recommend it? What weak points do you think it has?
- Interaction between the immaterial and the physical
… "Churchland (Paul) - Matter & Consciousness", 1984, pp. 7-10.
… "McGinn (Colin) - The Character of Mind - An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind", 1982, 23-25.
… "Priest (Stephen) - Theories of the Mind", 1991, pp. 31-34.
… "Smith (Peter) & Jones (O.R.) - The Philosophy of Mind - An Introduction", 1986, 53-59.
- The single most imposing obstacle to the acceptance of substance dualism has always been the puzzle of mind/body interaction. Just in so far as a friend of substance dualism is able to persuade us of the utter metaphysical difference between material substance on the one hand and spiritual or immaterial substance on the other, so great will be the difficulty the dualist faces in trying to persuade us that these two radically different kinds of things could interact with one another.
- And yet daily experience teaches us that such interaction is constant and undeniable. Every time you stub your toe (a physical occurrence), it appears that this physical event causes a mental event (your feeling of pain). Every time you experience feelings of hunger and thirst (mental occurrences) and are led by them to eat and drink (physical actions), it would seem that the mental has had an effect in the physical realm. How can a dualist account for this? Surely two things that are utterly, metaphysically, different cannot get any purchase on each other. Physical things can only exert physical pressure; mental things, only the non-physical influence of thought. As Churchland puts it, ‘How is this utterly insubstantial "thinking substance" to have any influence on ponderous matter?' (9).
- In particular, critics of dualism very often baulk at the notion that any material or physical happening (like an event in your brain) could have an immaterial cause. And yet if dualism is correct, and if your mind ever affects what you do, then the brain events which start the train of physical events which issue at least in the muscle movements that accomplish your actions must have among their causes some events in your immaterial mind. But surely the realm of physical causes and effects is closed (see Smith and Jones 58) — that is, there are no non-physical sources of physical energy or impetus. It would go wholly contrary to the law of conservation of energy if any energy should come into the physical realm from outside, so to speak. Yet that is exactly what must happen if an immaterial mind is to have any power over the actions of its material body.
- It would be wrong to end this chapter creating the impression that substance dualism, alone among theories of mind, has difficulty accounting for the relationship common sense tells us exists between mind and body. Every materialist theory that hopes to leave room for the causal efficacy of the mental must also face the difficulty that brain events seem sufficient all by themselves to explain any bodily activity they initiate. And this without reference to the thought, desire, choice or decision their human subject may regard as that movement's cause.
- Learning outcomes: After working through the reading materials and this chapter you should be able to:
- Outline the four criticisms which critics have levelled at substance dualism, and .
- Discuss them critically.
- Sample questions
- Is there any way of counting immaterial substances? Why does it matter?
- Can a dualist give a satisfactory account of mind/body interaction? If so, what is it? If not, why not?
- Tips on answering the sample questions
- The first question is about the second criticism discussed in this chapter. You should:
… First state Strawson's view that all genuine entities can be distinguished from one another in such a way as to be counted.
… Then give and explain the five suggested ways immaterial substances can be counted.
… Finally, give the objections which provide Strawson's ground for saying that ‘immaterial substance' does not designate a genuine entity.
- The second question is the more general of the two and in some ways easier. It would be best to start by thinking which answer to the first part you actually believe — can the dualist explain mind/body interaction or not? Once you know your own mind, it will be easier to write a full answer and make use of what you know about the topic to deal with the second and third questions.
COMMENT: Part 1 (The Metaphysics of Mind and Body); Section 1 (Dualism); Chapter 4. Hard Copy in "Various - Papers on Religion Boxes (Heythrop)".
"Thomas (Janice L.) - Behaviourism"
Source: Thomas (Janice L.) - Mind and Person in the Philosophy of Religion
- Essential reading – 47
- Further reading – 47
- Works cited – 47
- Introduction – 47
- Behaviourism in psychology – 48
- Wittgenstein – 49
- Ryle – 49
- Why not behaviourism? – 50
- Conclusion – 51
- Learning outcomes – 52
- Sample examination question – 52
- Essential Reading
- Further reading
- Brown, Geoffrey - Minds, Brains and Machines, 1989, Chapter 4.
- Heil, John - Philosophy of Mind: a contemporary introduction, 1998, pp. 54-71
- "Kim (Jaegwon) - Philosophy of Mind", 1996, Chapter 2.
- "Pears (David) - Wittgenstein", 1974, Chapter 8.
- Works Cited
- By now you may feel that you have looked at the major and further arguments in favour of substance dualism and the existence of immaterial substances and found them all flawed or deficient in one way or another. Also, like many philosophers of mind writing in the middle third of the 20th century, you may have been impressed by the apparent intractability of the main arguments against substance dualism discussed in the previous chapter.
- Again and again, thinkers come to view as completely insuperable the difficulty of giving an account of how a material body could possibly interact with a mind conceived as immaterial substance. Since most of us are also convinced that mind and body do actually interact constantly, the tension between these two conclusions has often been enough to make someone reject substance dualism.
- Behaviourism in psychology
- In the 1940s and 1950s, this sort of dissatisfaction with and scepticism about immaterial substance coincided with a behaviouristic trend in psychology and the dominance of positivism in philosophy.
- Behaviourism in psychology is, roughly speaking, the view that psychology's proper business is explaining, predicting and controlling behaviour. Psychology must be scientific, which means the only proper data of psychology are people's actions and other publicly observable behaviours (including verbal behaviour). Whereas earlier psychologists had relied on introspection (especially their own) to supply the data which they hoped would lead to an understanding of thought, perception, emotion, motivation etc., behaviourist psychologists felt that the only path to understanding involved the collection of observations of subjects' behaviour viewed as responses to stimuli. Any speculation about the subject's (inaccessible, if not non-existent) inner states was considered valueless. Appealing to inner states of which no one could ever have certain knowledge was thought unscientific and explanatorily pointless.
- Positivism in philosophy was a movement in which reports of what could be objectively, publicly observed were prized and subjective data were despised. Terms for items that could not be inspected or observed (like inner, mental states) were held to be meaningless or else the entities those terms were supposed to stand for were dismissed as, at best, useless posits or hypothetical entities and, more likely, simply non-existent.
- Behaviourism in the philosophy of mind is the view that words for mental or ‘inner' states (states of mind) mean nothing but the behaviour which common sense usually regards as associated with those states. So a behaviourist view of pain is that pain just consists in crying out and wincing, saying ‘that hurt' and pulling away from the injurious object. There is no role for an inner state of ‘being in pain'. There is just the pain behaviour. And what goes for pain goes for all psychological states. ‘Seeing something blue' is nothing but saying ‘that's blue'. Having the belief that there is a bear in your path is nothing over and above taking appropriate evasive measures, saying ‘Yes' to the question ‘Is there a bear on the path?', warning your companions and so forth.
- If you think about the extremely crude sketch of behaviourism in the last paragraph you are likely to spot one flaw immediately. If all there is to pain is saying ‘ouch' and pulling away, surely that means a stoic, who does not cry out or evade the hurtful thing when injured, is not rightly said to be in pain. On the other hand, an actor who portrays someone who is hurt is rightly said to be in pain. If pain behaviour is all there is to pain, the unhurt actor is providing all the pain behaviour needed for an attribution of pain.
- Behaviourists responded to this objection by amending their theory (or claiming that it had always contained a qualification). ‘In pain' means, not just ‘actually crying out and evading the hurtful thing', it also means ‘being inclined or disposed to do these things'. The stoic conquers his inclination to cry out and pull away, but the pain is still there. The actor is not really in those dispositional states: he is only acting.
- What behaviourists wanted to avoid was the apparently unscientific and ultimately fruitless hypothesising of entities like immaterial Cartesian egos or non-physical causal events or forces. Such things, both their friends and their detractors agreed, could not ever be observed. So how could reference to them help with understanding the behaviour of persons?
- Wittgenstein maintained that if mental states like sensations were things, they could in any case never be the entities which gave meaning to words or phrases like ‘pain' or ‘sensation of blue'. Gilbert Ryle went further and said that regarding such things as ‘my pain' or ‘my sensation of blue' as immaterial things or objects (in another immaterial object, ‘my mind') was to make what he described as a ‘category mistake'. There are no such entities.
… "Priest (Stephen) - Theories of the Mind", 1991, pp. 56-64.
- Wittgenstein was - as far as can be discovered from his writings - an agnostic about immaterial substances and entities in the mind. He thought that it did not matter for all practical purposes whether there were mysterious, private, internal immaterial entities called feelings (e.g. pains) and sensations or not. No one could ever see or otherwise experience anyone else's immaterial entities. So these things, if they existed, could not be the things which were labelled by words like ‘pain' and ‘sensation of blue' and in turn furnished the meanings of those words and phrases in the language we all share and use to communicate with each other.
- Wittgenstein used the analogy of a beetle in a box (Philosophical Investigations Sec. 293). Suppose you have what you call a beetle and you keep it in a match box. Your friends all have match boxes too and say that they have beetles. Perhaps you all agree never to show each other the contents of your boxes. Then ‘beetle' for your community of friends just means ‘whatever is in the box', and it does not really matter whether they are alike or different or even present at all.
- So it is with pains and sensations of colours on Wittgenstein's view. ‘Pain' or ‘sensation of blue' is not a label for a certain sort of inner entity: each is a bit of language which has been taught in the public world of sunlit ocean vistas and burnt fingers. Children are taught that ‘pain' is ‘whatever you are feeling now' when a finger gets burnt; that ‘the sensation of colour you have when you look at that' is a ‘sensation of blue'.
- My feeling when burned could differ in felt quality from yours, my sensation of blue could be, in fact, just what you sense when looking at ripe tomatoes. The meanings of ‘pain' and ‘sensation of blue' are not constituted by our several, individual, private sensations. You cannot ever see my beetle, feel my pain or have my sensation - or I, yours.
- The vocabulary of psychological states is a vocabulary of public practices like identifying the colours of things in the world or applying ointment to burns. It is not a vocabulary of labels for private entities.
… "Priest (Stephen) - Theories of the Mind", 1991, pp. 43-56.
- In his highly influential book, "Ryle (Gilbert) - The Concept of Mind", Ryle went even further than Wittgenstein. Ryle was not just agnostic about the existence of immaterial substances and states. He maintained that such things were creatures of our imagination fed by our ordinary linguistic habits and assumptions.
- Words like ‘bat' and ‘ball' are nouns and they refer to discrete, countable, physical objects. Words like ‘mind', ‘pain' and ‘sensation' are also nouns but we are mistaken if we take them, in the same way, to designate discrete, countable — perhaps ghostly immaterial — private entities. For Ryle, Descartes' account of man is a misleading picture of ‘a ghost in a machine'. Actually, humans are intelligent, thoughtful, feeling and sensing subjects (i.e. they have/are minds) not in virtue of possessing a superadded immaterial substance but in virtue of what they (can) do and say. To possess a mind (or have a sensation) is not to have got hold of some kind of strange entity, metaphysically utterly different from the physical body each of us has (or any of its organs or parts). Rather, to possess a mind is to be capable of what we would call intelligent action, sympathetic behaviour, self-control, whimsy, industry, perception and so forth. In the category of subjects there are only animals of certain sorts with certain capacities. The ones with a capacity for intelligent behaviour (evidenced by their actual intelligent behaviour) are the ones with minds. But ‘human animal1 body' and ‘mind' are not two separate entities on an equal footing and in the same category - of subjects: to understand the words ‘mind' and ‘intelligent' is to understand this.
- Priest gives an excellent, sympathetic account of Ryle's anti-Cartesian theory of mind, including a full explanation of the meaning of his phrase ‘category mistake' (45-46). It would be worth following up Priest's references to Ryle if you think you might like to answer an examination question in this area.
- Priest also gives a very good account of Wittgenstein's argument against the possibility of a private language, including its philosophical significance. Since, as Smith and Jones say, this argument would take several chapters to deal with adequately, I have simply given the very brief uncontroversial account of Wittgensteinian views which appears above: you can find further, helpful accounts (additional to Priest's) in Pears Chapter 8 and Brown Chapter 4.
- If you want to pursue the private language argument on your own, it is recommended only if you are keenly attracted by the more technical and difficult corners of philosophy of mind and feel you have sufficient understanding of the rest of this subject to afford the time for further reading in an area which is unlikely to figure in detail in any examination questions.
- Why not behaviourism?
- Surprisingly, many writers who share the behaviourists' scepticism about substance dualism seem equally dismissive of behaviourism too. Why? There are three main reasons, all having to do with behaviourism's repudiation of the inner:
… an intuitive conviction that we do have inner states
… the possibility that our psychological states could differ although our behaviour and dispositions do not
… the impossibility of defining mental states in exclusively physical terms.
- Intuitive conviction that we do have inner states
- Despite the efforts of Ryle and others to cast doubt on the possibility of introspection and the evidence it might give us, people continue to feel perfectly sure that they know from introspection that there are actual, occurrent mental states which they experience and which do not simply boil down to impulses towards characteristic behaviour and dispositional facts about how they would behave in these or those circumstances.
- Surely, sometimes, our mental states cannot be equivalent with our behaviour since they cause our behaviour, and it seems counterintuitive to say a thing causes itself. Often, also, when you are aware of being in a particular mental state, you are also aware that it is what causes your behaviour. For example, your desire for a drink is felt first and it causes you to go and get something to quench your thirst.
- Our psychological states could differ although our behaviour and dispositions do not
- Second, as Wittgenstein appears to a have maintained, it seems perfectly possible that two people whose behaviour and dispositions to behave are identical should be psychologically different in certain respects. Looking at the same sunlit ocean vista, for example, you and I both say, ‘I am having a sensation of blue'. What we both say is true, but your sensation could be qualitatively exactly like the sensation I experience when I see ripe tomatoes. If our behaviour (including verbal behaviour) and our behavioural dispositions are identical but our psychologies differ (even only slightly), mental states cannot simply reduce to (be equivalent to) behaviour and dispositional states. (This is sometimes called the ‘inverted spectrum objection', which will be examined in detail in Chapter 7, where it is even more relevant.)
- The impossibility of defining mental states in exclusively physical terms
- Finally, and perhaps most damningly of all, the relationship between mental states and behaviour is seldom as simple and straightforward as the behaviourist could wish. Pain may be fairly naturally expressed as (and viewed as equivalent to) moaning and pulling away from the hurtful thing. But a more complex mental state like a belief — whatever belief you choose as an example — will translate into very different actions and dispositions to act depending on the overall state of mind of the believer.
- Say you form the belief that there is a bear in your path. You may run away (or be disposed to) or you may stand stock still and try to keep from running. Both behaviours — running and keeping still — express the same belief, depending on what else you believe about the best way to deal with the sudden appearance of a bear. Desire to prove yourself might make you suppress your concern for your personal safety. A recent disappointment might make you reckless. Hopes of giving the children time to escape might make you stay and face the bear. The point is that the dispositions supposedly definitive of your belief that there is a bear are partly defined in turn by your other mental states. References to the mental cannot be eliminated from the account of the behaviour appropriate to the belief that we began by trying to understand in non-mental terms.
- In psychology, behaviourism has not remained the dominant ideology. In Philosophy of Mind what has been called philosophical or logical behaviourism never commanded large numbers of followers because it fails to deal with the three objections just outlined, although it does mark an advance over dualism by dealing with the problem of mind/body interaction.
- In fact, behaviourism views this problem of interaction not as a real problem which it can solve but as a pseudo-problem which can be exposed and wholly disarmed. As Churchland points out (24), to talk of ‘the mind of Marie Curie' (for example) is not to talk of a thing she possesses and has a relationship with but to talk of certain of her extraordinary capacities. There can thus be no problem about the nature of that relationship since no such interactive relationship exists.
- If behaviourism is flawed, we need to replace it with a theory which avoids, if possible, the errors and weaknesses of dualism. In particular, it would be good if it were possible to avoid the interactionism problem as behaviourism does. But also our new theory should avoid the completely counterintuitive denial that mental states have an intrinsic qualitative nature that is revealed in introspection. We need a theory that accepts that the mind, however closely connected with what we do, is also grounded somehow in our own, individual, internal states.
- Historically, the first candidate to offer itself as this rival to behaviourism was the identity theory, and this is the subject of the next chapter.
- As an exercise, take some ordinary belief which you hold about yourself (like the belief that you were born on such and such a date). Now ask yourself what behaviour or dispositions to act correspond to that belief. Try putting your thoughts into the behaviourists' standard form:
… believing that I was born on such and such a date is nothing more than my disposition to ........
Possible phrases to fill in the blank might include:
… answer ‘Yes' if asked ‘Were you born on such and such a date?'
… put that date in the appropriate space on a passport application.
- When your list seems complete, ask yourself whether that is all your belief amounts to or consists in. In other circumstances might it not lead you to yet different behaviour? Could the same belief not be attested to by completely different behaviour? (For example, in circumstances where you wanted to appear younger than your age, your belief that you were born on that [correct] date might be expressed by naming a much more recent date as your birthdate.)
- Now imagine you are part of a team designing a super-robot. The cunning wiring and programs you devise for the machine mean that it can do most domestic chores. It has sensors to tell it, among many other things, when the weather is suitable for dry laundry and also when the dirty laundry hamper is full. So one way to describe this robot is that it is in a state (when switched on) such that it will (on a good drying day) check for dirty laundry, wash it and hang it out to dry. We could describe the robot as being behaviourally disposed to do the laundry in appropriate circumstances.
- If you were responsible for writing up a report on the robot-building project after it was completed, would you feel comfortable describing the robot as having (or having been given) various mental states (i.e. believing it is a good drying day, believing the hamper is full, wanting to get the clothes clean and then wanting to get them dry)? Are mental states more than behavioural dispositions? Would you be more or less inclined to describe the robot's dispositional states as genuine, full-blooded mental states because they are definitely the result of (or perhaps equivalent to) known internal states either hardwired or programmed into the robot?
- Learning outcomes: Having read about Wittgenstein and Ryle and behaviourism, you should be able to
- Outline what logical behaviourism is.
- Detail several arguments supporting it.
- Explain the standard criticisms of behaviourism.
- Sample examination question
- What is right and what is wrong with behaviourism as an account of mind and mental states?
COMMENT: Part 1 (The Metaphysics of Mind and Body); Section 2 (Varieties of anti-dualism and materialism); Chapter 5. Hard Copy filed in "Various - Papers on Religion Boxes (Heythrop)".
"Thomas (Janice L.) - The identity theory"
Source: Thomas (Janice L.) - Mind and Person in the Philosophy of Religion
- Essential reading – 53
- Further reading – 53
- Understanding the theory – 53
- An important qualification – 54
- Arguments in favour of the identity theory – 54
- Objections to the identity theory – 58
- Learning outcomes – 60
- Sample examination questions – 60
- Tips for answering sample questions – 60
- Essential Reading
- Further reading
- Understanding the theory
- The identity theory of mind is easy to understand by taking its title completely literally and seriously. The sort of identity being talked about here is strict, numerical identity, such as the identity between Samuel Clemens and Mark Twain (the American author); Eric Blair and George Orwell (the British author); Clark Kent and Superman (the comic book character); Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (again a fictional character with two names) or, in the example made famous by the German logician, Gottlob Frege, between the morning star and the evening star (two names, in fact, for the planet Venus). These examples are all ones that turn up in the recommended reading.
- Any pair of names which in fact name one and the same thing will provide us with cases of numerical or strict identity. There are not two stars: there is only one heavenly body seen sometimes in the morning and sometimes in the evening. Superman is never seen when Clark Kent is seen and recognised as himself; Clark Kent is never there to witness Superman performing a miraculous rescue. He could not be: Clark Kent is Superman. Superman and Clark Kent have strict numerical identity with each other. There is only one person although there are two distinct personalities or public images.
- This is the meaning that the word ‘identity' has in the phrase ‘identity theory of mind'. The identity theory of mind says simply, ‘mind and brain are identical'; ‘mental states just are states of the brain and central nervous system'. If you are feeling angry or afraid or having a sensation of blue colour, you are in one or another or a further particular brain state. Your anger state is that brain state and nothing more. There is no immaterial/mental anger state causing your brain state. Your sensation of blue is not caused by the state of your brain brought about when light of a certain frequency enters your eye. Your sensation of blue colour just is that state your brain gets into when your eye is so irradiated.
- An important qualification
- It was said above that the identity theory holds that the mind just is the brain and central nervous system and some writers claim just that in so many words (Patricia Smith Churchland, for example). But most thinkers accept that, since many brain states are not mental states, and since the mind is not a single entity in any straightforward sense, we should really regard the mind as an aggregation of mental states. The crucial identity would then be the identity between mental states and central nervous system states (and in particular, of course, brain states).
- Arguments in favour of the identity theory
- There are four arguments commonly cited in support of the identity theory:
… It is economical.
… It improves on behaviourism.
… Its analogy with accepted scientific reductions: water just is H2O.
… It solves the mind/body interaction problem.
- The identity theory is economical
- Ockham's razor is a principle, probably familiar from your study of Philosophy of Religion, which tells us that ‘we should not multiply entities beyond necessity'. That is, when we are evolving a theory to explain something (in this case the mental, inner lives of persons) we should, all other things being equal, try to get along with as few metaphysical categories as possible. We may be forced to posit both material and immaterial substances to explain all the phenomena adequately. If, however, we can explain everything about our psychological life, our sensations, emotions and beliefs, all in terms of events in, or states of, different parts of the brain and central nervous system we will be right not to subscribe to dualism. Parsimony (frugality) is not a proof, of course, but it is usually thought a virtue where explanatory theories are concerned.
- It is probably worth stressing that the identity theory is not denying the existence of mental states. It is saying that mental states are real and existent but they are not immaterial. They are not extra, non-physical items over and above the physical parts and states of the thinker's body.
- The economy of the identity theory — its positing of material substances alone — is, however, a virtue which could be claimed by any physicalist/materialist theory. The identity theory is only one version of materialism. What arguments do its defenders believe are special to it?
- It improves on behaviourism
- As pointed out at the end of the previous chapter, if the identity theory can preserve the strengths of behaviourism while avoiding its faults then this certainly would speak well in its favour.
- The earliest exponents of the identity theory were U.T. Place, J.J.C. Smart, Herbert Feigl, David Lewis and David Armstrong. Since most of these philosophers either were Australian or were writing in Australia in the 1950s and 1960s, the identity theory was sometimes called by its detractors ‘the Australian Heresy'. Its friends and practitioners called the theory ‘Central State Materialism' to mark its principal point of departure from Rylean behaviourism. You should try to read at least Place's classic article, "Place (U.T.) - Is Consciousness a Brain Process?", and one of the articles by Armstrong.
- Real inner states and dispositions
- Behaviourism avoided positing mysterious, non-physical, unobservable inner states and emphasised instead the connection between our vocabulary for attributing mental states and the publicly observable behaviour characteristic of people said to be in pain or angry or perceiving certain sorts of things.
- Exponents of the identity theory saw this behaviourist move as a case of ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water'. If a person is inclined or disposed to behave in certain characteristic ways, there must surely be something about that person, something in his inner constitution or states, which accounts for the characteristic behaviour he displays. Inner states are anathema when they are mysterious, magical and, in principle, unobservable. Specific inner physical states (some of the states of the brain and central nervous system) are a part of nature, under the sway of natural law and thus certainly preferable in point of concreteness and scientific comprehensibility to mysterious, ungrounded dispositions of the whole organism such as those appealed to by behaviourism.
- Compare the dispositional property of brittleness in glass. We could just say that glass is inclined to fracture when lightly struck. But no scientist would be content to leave the explanation of the glass's brittleness at that. The brittleness of glass is grounded in its internal molecular structure. So, too, with the pain you feel when you burn your finger. Of course you are inclined to cry out and to try to cool the afflicted part, but the inclination towards this behaviour is rightly viewed as grounded in your inner physical state — whatever state of your brain was effected by the burn and in turn can command (if appropriate) the physical responses described. If you are, right now, apt to behave in a certain way, some actual present state of you makes you apt to behave that way — whether you do so or not in the event.
- So the first of the major objections to behaviourism (listed in the previous chapter) is avoided by the identity theory.
- The inverted spectrum hypothesis
- What of the second objection? This was the objection that there seems no logical barrier to two people's having different psychological states while being exactly similar in behavioural dispositions. Yet, if behaviourism is correct and behavioural dispositions are all there is to mental states, then this situation should be impossible.
- The suggestion that it is possible that two people might differ systematically in the individual, private felt quality (sometimes called ‘phenomenological feel') of their sensations or inner states, although they are inclined to do and say exactly the same things (their behavioural dispositions are identical) is sometimes referred to as the inverted spectrum hypothesis.
- There is serious debate among philosophers of mind about whether the inverted spectrum hypothesis expresses a genuine possibility or not. If it does, it clearly makes trouble for the behaviourist. Unfortunately, the same sort of trouble afflicts one version of the identity theory if the inverted spectrum is a real possibility. I will return to this point after I introduce the complication of distinct, significantly different identity theories (in fact, not until Chapter 7 below).
- The impossibility of the behaviourist programme of psychology
- The third objection to behaviourism was that it seems to require something impossible. To specify the behavioural dispositions which might, in one person or another, constitute a particular sensation or belief (and to do so without getting into a circle by reinvoking mental states) seems potentially an endless task.
- My believing it is going to rain (to take a favourite example from, among others, Smith and Jones) translates into ‘being inclined to bring in the washing' if I believe that is the way to keep the washing from getting wetter and if I also want the washing to get dry. Without reference to these other beliefs and desires, my behavioural intentions and dispositions do not come close to constituting a belief in impending rain.
- The identity theory was certainly offered by its first exponents as affording a resolution of this predicament. On the identity theory a person's being in a particular psychological state just is that person's being in a particular neurophysiological state. Which mental state that neurophysiological state is depends in turn to some extent on what behaviour typically flows from that brain/central nervous system state. But the word ‘typically' is an important qualification. The cause of the neurophysiological state is also an important determinant of which sort of psychological state that brain state is identical with. If it is caused by injury then that brain state is pain; if it is caused by deprivation of liquid then it is thirst, and so on. Whatever behaviour issues (or does not) from the psychological state, you are really in it if and only if your brain is in the right state.
- The analogy with accepted scientific reductions: water just is H2O
… "Churchland (Paul) - Matter & Consciousness", 1984, pp. 26-35.
- One of the most powerfully persuasive considerations advanced by the defenders of the identity theory of mind is the analogy with other ‘nothing but' reductions or equivalences in physics and chemistry. Here is a summary of the examples Churchland offers:
… sound is nothing but a train of compression waves travelling in the air
… light is nothing but electromagnetic waves
… colour is a triplet of reflectance efficiencies
… warmth is nothing but a high average molecular kinetic energy
… lightning is a sudden large scale discharge of electrons between clouds.
- A frequently encountered example is ‘water is (nothing but) H2O': in just the same way, it is said, mental states are ‘nothing but' neurophysiological states.
- These examples are intended to show the scientific respectability of the identity theory of mental states. It is just another in a long line of fruitful, ‘X is nothing but Y', scientific explanations.
- We have introspection to tell us when we are experiencing this or that psychological state. And we have neuroscience to tell us what events in our brain and central nervous system correlate with those mental or psychological events. Why not identify, for example, a given pain reported by the subject with the neural event which is its correlate? Why not say, ‘the pain is nothing but the neural event'?
- Churchland's examples are also intended to counter a possible objection to the proposed theory which could be summarised as follows.
- Your mental states have very different properties from those which your neurophysiological states possess. In particular, your own mental states can be known by you immediately and directly without recourse to any observations or scientific instruments (you cannot really avoid knowing all about them!) On the other hand, your neurophysiological states take a lot of tricky scientific work to discover.
- In contrast, your neurophysiological (i.e. physical) states and behaviour are there for anyone with the scientific expertise to observe or investigate whereas your mental states are private - you alone know what they are and what they feel like.
- So someone might say, ‘surely two such different things (mental states and physiological states) could not be identical'. (Remember Leibniz' Law in the version employed in this guide: ‘if X has a property Y lacks or vice versa, X is not identical with Y'.)
- The identity theorist will reply (as Churchland does, on page 33, about the example ‘temperature is knowable by feeling' etc.) that where science tells us some commonly observable phenomenon (like temperature or warmth) is in fact nothing but some precisely measurable or describable happening or structure (like mean molecular kinetic energy), we should realise that what is involved is a contingent fact, an equivalence or identity which science had to discover and which could have been different if the physical universe had had a different history of development and change.
- But the surprisingness of the identity should not be a reason for doubting that it is an identity. It is worth remembering that many objects have properties that differ radically from each other. A collection of stones, wood and glass can constitute, be identical with, a cathedral - even though the materials have, say, each a particular melting point (a property which no cathedral has) and the cathedral itself might have a property (like that of being a beautiful building) which is not possessed by any of its material constituents.
- Sound may be identical with a train of compression waves travelling in the air but the identity between the two does not prevent one of them (at least striking an observer as) having features the other lacks. The sound (but not the wave train) may be beautiful while the travelling waves (but not the sound heard) may be fast or slow1 relative to some other wave train.
- Interaction problem solved
- Finally, as has been assumed throughout this section (but you would need to make the point explicitly in an exam answer), the great virtue of the identity theory is that it resolves the mind/body interaction problem which for so many people forms the fatal objection to dualism. As does behaviourism, the identity theory resolves the interaction problem by denying that mind and body are two things which could interact. Interaction requires, at the least, two things to have an effect on one another. If mental states just are brain states there is no problem about how a mental state and its corresponding brain state get any purchase on one another. When a mental state has a physical effect, that is because it is itself a physical state with the unmysterious power to produce physical effects.
- The first objection that the defenders of the identity theory had to combat was the protest that the theory as first expounded was chauvinist and parochial. If pain, for example, is to be defined as ‘the firing of a certain sort of fibre in a particular region of the afflicted person's brain', then what are we+XX+ to say about the family dog or cat? Neither has a human brain, but pain was said to be nothing but a certain sort of human neurological event or state. We seem to have made pain something only humans can experience and this seems a view that needs a defence (rather than one to arrive at just by accident, so to speak).
- Several responses to this objection are possible: perhaps there are different kinds of species-specific pain — human-pain, dog-pain, cat-pain, etc. But this response raises the difficult question, ‘What is it that makes them all types of pain?' The identity theorist began by telling us that what was essential to or definitive of pain was that it is identical with (it just is) a certain type of human brain state. But if, as common sense seems to tell us, dogs, cats and other nonhuman animals+XX+ can feel pain too, then there is something more to being a pain than just being a brain state of a particular human kind or type. And that ‘something more' is what makes this human state and that dog state and that cat state all pain.
- And then too, what about beings that have no brain? We may feel that it is reasonable to deny the capacity for pain to animals that have no brain or only an extremely rudimentary one (fish? insects?). And what about beings like sophisticated computers which undeniably exercise what (when humans exercise them) we would describe as mental or intellectual powers? They are not alive and possess no biological organs (therefore they literally have no brain of any kind) — shall we decide that no such entity could ever feel pain?
- And what of creatures from other planets? Can we not imagine a creature with a wholly different biology, perhaps silicon based, which nonetheless (despite lacking anything like a brain) behaved in ways strongly suggestive of being in pain when it was injured?
- Finally, what are we+XX+ to say about disembodied2 persons, angels, God? If such beings exist and have minds, surely it makes no sense to say that mental states just are states of their brains: none has a brain.
- The charge of chauvinism is very powerful, but most supporters of the identity theory were not persuaded by it to abandon their theory altogether. Instead, they adopted an amended theory which seemed to avoid the objection while retaining the virtues which identity theory claimed — of treating the mind as a part of nature suitable for natural science to investigate, and treating mental states as nothing but physical things. The name of this amended identity theory is ‘functionalism'. (Some think that the identity theory is just an off-shoot of functionalism — see "Braddon-Mitchell (David) & Jackson (Frank) - Philosophy of Mind and Cognition". Others find it very difficult to distinguish functionalism from identity theory, let alone decide which might form a subspecies of the other.)
- Functionalism will be properly introduced and treated in detail in the next chapter. For the present, just think about the family-dog-in-pain case once again. I know nothing about canine neuroanatomy but if I were looking for the internal/brain state to identify with pain in Fido's case, I would have to compare his brain and a human's (say, my own) under different conditions and during different behaviours. I would try (perhaps by attaching electrodes to us both) to discover which bits of his brain and mine seemed activated by some injury (say a pinprick administered to each of us) and in turn coincided with my saying ‘ouch' and pulling away and the dog's yelping and pulling away. I would be inclined to call the type of activation of each brain which I had discovered in those circumstances ‘the pain brain state'. But this is because I would know that I had felt the pain just then and I would guess from his yelping/pulling away behaviour that the dog too felt his pain at that time.
- In the example, I am identifying each brain state (the dog's and my own) as pain: each brain state occupies the right causal role in its possessor. Each seems to have been caused by injury and in turn to trigger or cause the outcry and withdrawal. Since each brain state performs the same causal role or function in its respective possessor it is given the name of the same mental state type.
- Type and token
- There is, however, a more difficult objection to identity theory (or at least one kind of identity theory) which involves making a distinction between type and token. For any kind of thing there is both the kind to which it belongs (its type) and the individual instances which fall under that type (the type's tokens). So, for instance, the word ‘the' which appears many times on this page is both a type (which can have repeated instances) and a token (the one surrounded by quotation marks is itself a particular instance of the type). If you buy two books and write your name in the flyleaf of first one and then the other there will be one name-type and two tokens of it (one in each book).
- Now think about the supposed identity between mental states and brain states. Are the things being identified types or tokens? When I prick my finger with a pin is the brain event caused by this injury and said to be identical with my pain a type or a token?
- Notice first that the particular pain I feel and the particular brain state I am in are at least tokens. So if they are identical (if the identity theorist is right about mental state-brain state identity), then there is just one token which is both a brain state and a psychological state.
- But earlier, when I introduced the identity theory in the terms used by Place, Smart and others, it was type-identity that seemed to be at issue. What was claimed was that certain sorts of identity would turn out to hold between types of brain activation and types of psychological event. The hope was that, for example, pain would turn out to be one kind of neural event (the firing of certain sorts of fibres or the activation of a specific region of the brain) and hope or fear would turn out to be identical with different kinds of neuronal events and locations.
- Priest says roundly (113) that neurologists have found it ‘simply empirically false that the same sort of mental event has to be correlated always with the same sort of brain event'. Neither you and I, nor you yesterday and you today, need be in the same brain state in order to be in the same mental state. Or so neuroscience seems to have discovered.
- The objection, then, is an objection to type-identity theories. This objection says that the parallel between ‘water just is H2O' and ‘pain just is a certain sort of brain state' breaks down and is known to do so on empirical grounds. A pang of fear might be identical with one type of brain state in you and identical with a quite different type of brain state in me. A pinprick pain might be identical with one sort of brain state at one point in your mental history and another pinprick pain you suffer might be constituted by a token of a quite different type of brain state on another occasion.
- Of course, this way of putting the objection criticises the type-identity theory while at the same time affirming what has been called token-identity. The critic emphatically does not believe that any mental states are immaterial or non-physical. Each (token) mental state is numerically identical with a particular token physical state. But it is claimed that specific types of mental state are not to be identified with specific types of brain state because empirical brain research tells us that the correlations of psychological and physical types that would support a type-identity theory simply are not to be found.
- Learning outcomes: After reading through this chapter and the reading selections you should be able to:
- Explain what kind of identity the identity theory is talking about
… strict, numerical
- Explain how brain state identity is defended
… on grounds of economy
… as an improvement on behaviourism (by recognising real inner states and giving an account of them that isn't circular.)
… by aligning itself with scientifically creditable inter-theoretic reductions (analogy with ‘Water is H2O')
… as solving the mind/body interaction problem.
- Outline these objections:
… empirical evidence against type-identity (explain type/token distinction).
- Discuss the meaning of and objections to ‘contingent identity'.
- Sample examination questions
- Are types of mental states identical with types of brain states?
- What arguments can be given to support the identity theory of mind and what serious criticisms have been addressed to it?
- Tips for answering sample questions
- Remember, you are meant to evaluate, not just summarise. Always define key terms:
… What is meant by ‘identity' and ‘identify'?
… What is identified with what?
- Since the identity theory and functionalism are so closely related, you should aim to study both topics if you are going to do either.
COMMENT: Part 1 (The Metaphysics of Mind and Body); Section 2 (Varieties of anti-dualism and materialism); Chapter 6. Hard Copy filed in "Various - Papers on Religion Boxes (Heythrop)".
In-Page Footnotes ("Thomas (Janice L.) - The identity theory")
Footnote 1: See also Chapter 8 of this subject guide - beauty as a supervenient property.
"Thomas (Janice L.) - Functionalism"
Source: Thomas (Janice L.) - Mind and Person in the Philosophy of Religion
- Essential reading – 61
- Further reading – 61
- Introduction – 61
- Response to the chauvinism objection — multiple realisability – 62
- The second avenue to functionalism — the computer analogy – 63
- Arguments for functionalism – 64
- Objections to functionalism – 64
- Learning outcomes – 68
- Sample examination questions – 68
- Tips for answering sample questions – 68
- Essential Reading
- Campbell, Keith - Body and Mind, 1984.
- "Churchland (Paul) - Matter & Consciousness", 1984, pp. 38-41.
- Crane, Tim - The Mechanical Mind: a philosophical introduction to minds, machines and mental representation, 1995, Chapter 3.
- "Graham (George) - Philosophy of Mind: An Introduction", 1998, Chapter 5, especially pp. 89-93.
- "McGinn (Colin) - The Character of Mind - An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind", pp. 33-36.
- "Priest (Stephen) - Theories of the Mind", 1991, Chapter 5, pp. 133-49.
- "Smith (Peter) & Jones (O.R.) - The Philosophy of Mind - An Introduction", 1986, pp. 159-62.
- Further reading
- Two avenues to functionalism
- Functionalism in one form or another is one of the most widely held theories among present day philosophers of mind. Two different routes brought thinkers to functionalism. On the one hand, some reacted against the identity theory because of the chauvinism discussed in the previous chapter, but thought that the type-type1 identity theory or at least some closely allied form of materialism was basically on the right track. On the other hand, some were inspired by striking similarities they noticed between mental states and the functional or logical states of computers. Functionalism seemed to offer both a solution to the chauvinism problem and a satisfying account of mind that put the computer analogy to fruitful use. In what follows, we will look at each approach in turn and try to see how they draw together.
- Response to the chauvinism objection - multiple realisability
… "McGinn (Colin) - The Character of Mind - An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind", p. 34.
- The chauvinism objection to the identity theory says ‘mental states like pain cannot simply be identified with certain sorts of human brain states (like c-fibre activation) because humans are not the only beings that feel or could possibly feel pain'. Non-humans obviously lack human brains and therefore cannot have human brain states, but most people are inclined to think that many of them can nonetheless suffer pains. If we want to know what pain (or any mental state) is for human, animal, angel and alien alike, we must look for what all sufferers could have in common when they are all suffering.
- Functionalism suggests that we look on mental states as functional states of their subjects. A functional state is one dependent upon a functional property and a functional property is one a thing has in virtue of some job, task or function it is designed or apt to perform. So mousetraps all have the functional property ‘being a mouse trap'. The important thing to notice is that mousetraps could differ greatly from each other. There is no single, physical specification which every mousetrap must meet. So a mousetrap can be made of metal and wood and work by a spring mechanism or be made of clear plastic with no working parts. A mousetrap can be savage or humane, baited or unbaited, depending on design. As long as it is able to perform the same task of capturing a mouse, any contrivance will do. There need be no similarity at the level of physical description — no shared physical properties — even though, of course, no one would suggest that any mousetrap is anything other than a purely physical object.
- This is the phenomenon of multiple realisability. Mousetraps can be realised in any one of a wide range of physical bodies, differing from one another in structure and constituent materials. What they all share is no single physical property or properties — rather it is the functional property of ‘being a mousetrap'.
- Functionalists believe that the best account of mental states is to view them as functional states of their subject. Pain is the state you are in which is caused by injury, tissue damage or severe pressure and which in turn produces other mental states (say, fear and a desire to escape/avoid the injurious thing) and behaviour (crying out, pulling away). Thirst is the state you are in which is caused by dehydration and in turn produces a desire for, and purposeful movement to acquire, drink.
- If mental states are whatever state fills a causal role rather than specific types of physical states then they could be realised in any material. They might be realised by different human brain states in us and different dog brain states in the family dog. In the Martians invented by David Lewis ("Lewis (David) - Mad Pain and Martian Pain"), psychological states are realised by hydraulic activity in the Martians' feet. If there are any nonmaterial supernatural beings their mental states might be realised in various types of immaterial substance states. You should be aware that functionalism, although it is the theory of mind favoured by many materialists is not necessarily a materialist theory. As Priest explains (134), functionalism only entails materialism if you add the premise that ‘all causes and effects are physical causes and effects'. Since functionalism gives an account of mental states as ‘constituted by their causal relations to one another and to sensory inputs and behavioural outputs' ("Block (Ned) - Functionalism"), if all causes are physical then mental states, being both the effects of sensory episodes and the causes of behaviour, are bound to be physical — but only if the added premise is true.
- Test your grasp of the notion of a functional property by thinking about ‘being an anti-biotic', ‘being a heart' and ‘being unlocked' (as one possible state of a bicycle lock). In the latter case, you could verify your thoughts about what a functional property is and how mental states might be viewed as such by reading David Lewis's "Lewis (David) - An Argument for the Identity Theory"; the bicycle lock analogy plays a key role in his argument.
- The second avenue to functionalism - the computer analogy
… "Priest (Stephen) - Theories of the Mind", 1991, Chapter 5, pp. 145-47.
- Functionalism deals with the chauvinism objection by arguing that mental states should be viewed as functional states and thus multiply realisable. One and the same functional state can be realised (causal role can be performed) by different physical states or events in quite disparate physical structures.
- One sort of object defined by a functional concept and having a functional property which makes a striking analogue (if nothing more) for mental states and the mind is the computer. Computers come in many different shapes and sizes and can be made from many different materials and components. One of the earliest computers (designed by Charles Babbage) called for, among other things, a thousand axle rods and fifty-thousand geared wheels: when eventually built it weighed three tons. In contrast, recent laptops are made of silicon, plastic and liquid crystal and weigh only a few pounds.
- What matters2 for being a computer is what it does, its causal role. If it takes in data (information), performs operations on those data and puts out data (which we interpret as answers to questions we have posed to the machine), then it is a computer whatever hardware it is made of and whatever software it is running or instructions it is following. We can understand it completely because its outputs are a joint function of its inputs and its current states and internal structure. Moreover, two computers can be functionally equivalent (sometimes writers use ‘functionally isomorphic' as a synonym for this phrase) even if they are built of very different materials, to very different designs.
- Of course, what is particularly interesting about computers where philosophers of mind are concerned is that (unlike mousetraps) what computers all do (their behaviour or output) is something that is remarkably like the things we do with our minds. We say that computers solve problems, process information, make diagnoses. We even credit them with various mental states: we say the computer is ‘searching its memory', ‘looking for' this or that, ‘recognising' a code word, even that it ‘understands' instructions of one sort or another, ‘wants' to do this or that and ‘believes' such and such is the right answer or procedure in certain circumstances. The thought is bound to occur — ‘maybe the way computers do these things is the way we do them too!'. Perhaps the brain is a computer, performing operations, on symbols that represent items in the world outside our heads.
- Indeed, the whole subject of artificial intelligence is built on the general principle that what computers do and what we creatures with minds do is sufficiently similar that we can learn about human understanding by studying computers and designing and building computers whose performance matches human intelligent performance of various kinds in different respects. The conclusion many have reached is that minds when thinking are exactly analogous to (or perhaps simply are) computers running programs: the brain and central nervous system (CNS) are the hardware and the mind is the software.
- Arguments for functionalism
- Functionalism's main defence is that it has all the advantages already claimed for the identity theory (in fact it is often said to be at least a token—token identity theory — if all causes are physical, every token mental state is a token physical state) but without the chauvinism that undermines central state materialism's type—identity theory. Much of the weight of the functionalist's case rests on the intuitive persuasiveness of the computer analogy as an account of the nature of mind.
- Objections to functionalism: The most important objections to functionalism are:
- It leaves something crucial out of the definitions it gives us of the various mental states — namely, their distinctive, qualitative character or feel.
- It cannot co-exist with the truth of the inverted spectrum hypothesis (or the absent qualia hypothesis).
- Computers running programs do not thereby have genuine mental states or understanding so analysing the mental states of persons as functional states of a kind of computer is a dead end. It will not give us a plausible account of the nature of mind.
- Functionalism leaves out the distinctive character of mental states
- Suppose that neurophysiologists find a way to identify a specific inner state of yours (a state of your brain/CNS) which occupies the right causal role for pain. It is caused by a burn to your finger (for example) and in turn causes you to cry out and pull your finger away. Would you regard it as appropriate to call this inner state of yours ‘pain' if you felt nothing when your brain was in that state? In other words, does pain have to hurt? Can you have a mental state without its characteristic ‘feel'?
- Supporters of functionalism, thinking as they do that specifying a complete causal role is all there is to specifying any particular type of psychological state, will argue as follows: although, of course, most pains are felt, there is no barrier of principle to the existence of unfelt pains. Indeed, examples could be given of actual unfelt pain — like that of the soldier who, in the heat of battle, does not notice his grievous wound. Surely, the argument goes, there is pain there but the victim is simply not conscious of it.
- The inevitable reply is that for as long as the soldier remains completely distracted so that he does not notice his wound he is feeling no pain — which is just to say there is no pain to feel. That is why we take pain killers and employ anaesthetics — in order to eliminate or prevent pain. With pain, this reply continues, its existence lies in its being perceived. If it is not perceived it does not exist.
- The functionalist may respond again by claiming that his opponent is naïve. Change the example from pain to, say, fear or perception of blue and it becomes quite clear that it makes perfect sense to talk of unconscious fears or unconscious (for example, subliminal) sense perceptions. Modem psychology has made appeal to subconscious or unconscious mental states not just perfectly respectable and orthodox but, in some cases, mandatory.
- The opponent will reply again by saying that there is more to his point. Even if he granted the existence of unconscious mental states — fears, pains, colour sensations and so forth which are consciously experienced have each their own characteristic, specific, definitive, phenomenal feel or quality. (These are sometimes called 'qualia' - the singular of this word is ‘a quale'.) Pains must, when consciously experienced, hurt. Conscious fears must feel fearful and anxious. Colour sensations of which we are aware have specific, unique qualitative characters: sensing red just has a different felt quality from having a sensation of blue. The functionalist definition ignores what to many thinkers are essential or definitive qualitative aspects of mental states.
- Think about the question raised above. If you were told you were in pain by the scientist who had detected a particular brain state occupying the right causal role in you, would you agree or disagree, supposing you felt nothing, not even a twinge of discomfort? If you are inclined to judge that you do have authority here then this means you think that functionalism has left something vital out.
- Functionalism rules out the inverted spectrum hypothesis
… "Graham (George) - Philosophy of Mind: An Introduction", 1998, pp. 8-15.
… Campbell, Keith - Body and Mind, 1984, pp. 102ff.
… "Churchland (Paul) - Matter & Consciousness", 1984, pp. 38-39.
- It is now time to discuss the inverted spectrum hypothesis which was earlier said to threaten behaviourism (p. 52 above), and now furnishes the same objection to functionalism. The strategy of this objection can be schematically outlined as follows:
- 1. Functionalism, if true, would rule out as impossible a possibility which most people would regard as a genuine possibility (namely the possibility of a genuine case of spectrum inversion).
- 2. If a theory says a particular hypothesis is false when we have independent grounds for accepting that hypothesis as true, we should reject the theory. (Something has to give — they cannot both be true.)
- First we need to know what a genuine case of spectrum inversion would consist in. When you and I both look at a ripe tomato and say ‘that is red', you are having a private, inner sensory experience which you identify as (what it feels like when) sensing red. I identify my experience in exactly the same terms. But is it not possible that the sensation you are having is qualitatively unlike the sensation I am having? If — what is admittedly impossible — I were to have your sensation, perhaps I would identify it as a sensation of green.
- It even seems possible that, wholly unknown to us, our colour sensations are all systematically different in such a way that what creates a sensation of orange in me creates a sensation which, if I could have it, I would describe as a sensation of blue, and so on round the spectrum. Of course we actually identify exactly the same things in the world as red, orange, blue etc.
- If you judge that the possibility of spectrum inversion which I have just described is a genuine possibility (it makes sense, it could happen, though of course no one would or could know), then functionalism as already described in this chapter is refuted. For functionalism says that all there is to having a particular mental state (sensation of colour or pain or fear etc.) is being in, or having, a particular state with the right causal role. If you and I are both sensing red, then according to functionalism there is and can be no difference between our mental states. To sense red is nothing more nor less than to be in that inner state caused by a certain, specific kind of irradiation of the eyes which in turn causes the subject to identify the source of the irradiation as red in colour. According to functionalism there is nothing more to either of our sensations of red which could make a point of difference between them.
- The functionalist might reply that, in fact, anything which differed between the qualitative character of your mental state and mine would have a knock on effect on the functional character of your state; it would differentiate your state's functional character from that of mine as well. If your state did not hurt it would not make you cry out and pull away.
- But, course, in that case it would no longer be a pain even on the functionalist's definition. Perhaps the objector needs to say that it is not really conceivable, for example, that a perfectly set up causal intermediary between irradiation and judgement of colour could lack the characteristic qualitative feel of a sensation of the colour in question. Red things just do always invoke a warm sensation; blue things, a cool one. Characteristic phenomenal feel (qualitative character) may not be definitive of mental states, but it is an invariable accompaniment. The objector's response will be that the essence of mental states is their feel or character. The customary accompaniment is the causal role — being typically caused by this: typically causing that. But should phenomenal feel and causal role come apart, the mental state is the phenomenal feel, not the causal role. Pain is pain if it hurts, whether it is caused by tissue damage and leads to avoidance or not.
- Think about the inverted spectrum hypothesis — do you think it represents a genuine possibility? (Could my sensation of red differ in qualitative character from yours?) Doesn't this show functionalism is wrong?
- Read through the section on inverted spectrum again and ask yourself whether the anti-functionalist argument would work equally well if the hypothesis opposed to functionalism were the hypothesis of the possibility of philosophers' zombies. In philosophical parlance, a zombie is a being who is physically, molecule-for-molecule exactly like a human subject and behaves exactly like a human subject, but has no conscious states, no sensations with any phenomenal character, no feelings.
- Could there exist such a being? (Notice that this is a question about logical possibility or conceivability, not about practical possibility, still less actuality.) If zombies are possible, they would be functionally equivalent to (isomorphic with) humans — that is, they would have inner states which were defined by their causal role, caused by distinct types of contact with the world, in turn causing certain behaviour but which had no qualia (no phenomenal feel).
- If such a zombie could exist (if the concept makes sense, has no internal incoherence) then, again, functionalism must be wrong. Functionalism says that there could be no difference between you and your zombie twin in respect of your mental states. Having a particular mental state simply is being in the right functional state.
- Now go back to behaviourism. Ask yourself whether behaviourism is in the same awkward position as functionalism with respect to the inverted spectrum hypothesis or the zombie hypothesis (which is sometimes called ‘the problem of absent qualia'). If the inverted spectrum hypothesis is a genuine one then any theory which says it is not must be itself mistaken. By this test, behaviourism stands or
falls with functionalism.
- Is understanding nothing more than computing?
… Crane, Tim - The Mechanical Mind, 1995, Chapter 3.
- Pioneers of computing theory like Alan Turing were very optimistic about the view that human intelligence or mindedness would turn out to be nothing additional to computing or computation and thus that a machine capable of sufficiently complex computing would count among the intelligent subjects3.
- There is a famous thought experiment4 devised by John Searle which aims to call into question the view that a crucial mental state, that of understanding, might be exhaustively accounted for or defined in terms of occupying a causal role — more specifically, the causal role of running a program: in other words, computing. He had the inspired idea of casting himself as the device running the program. He would ‘run a program' by performing certain operations on some symbols — operations determined by following rules having to do only with the physical shape of the symbols, not their meanings.
- Searle's experiment is called ‘the Chinese Room' for the following reason. The symbols Searle chose for his example were the symbols used in written Chinese. Searle imagined himself locked in a room with a slot through which Chinese characters could be handed in to him and another slot through which he could feed Chinese symbols out. In the room was a supply of Chinese characters and a rule book full of rules of the form ‘if the received symbols are shaped thus and so, feed out symbols shaped like this'. Searle, being completely ignorant of the Chinese language, would not know the meaning of the symbols handed in but, since the rule book is in English, he would be able to select appropriate symbols to hand out. In Searle's story, people outside the room who feed in the symbols take themselves to be dispatching questions in Chinese into the room and receiving appropriate answers in return.
- The question is whether the man in the room would (or would eventually) understand Chinese. Searle's view is that he would never come to understand the language simply by repeatedly rearranging symbols according to rules for doing so. And this is all a computer running a program ever does — follow rules for symbol manipulation. For one thing, endless repetitions of the procedure could never teach the man in the Chinese room what the symbols are about, what they refer to.
- When you understand something, say a sentence said to you in your native language, you do not just recognise symbols by their physical properties and correlate them with other symbols recognised by their physical properties. You take note of the meaning of the symbols heard, and that determines what (appropriate) response you make.
- Searle's conclusion is that understanding is more than just running a program: applied more generally — having mental states is more than simply being in certain functional states.
- Ask yourself what is missing from the computer running a program that makes it unlike you when you are answering questions in your native language. It has already been said that you, unlike the computer, know what the words used refer to and are about. What else have you got that the computer lacks? (Think about conscious awareness, self-consciousness. Can you think of any others?)
- Learning outcomes
- When you have worked through the reading recommended for this chapter, you should be able to:
… Explain what functionalism is.
… List the main arguments in favour of functionalism.
- Remember that, like all theories of the mind, functionalism defends its position by:
- 1. Trying to present its stance as a plausible account which covers all the relevant phenomena.
- 2. Arguing that it has all the advantages claimed by its rivals (a brief outline of these is useful in an exam answer.)
- 3. Claiming that it can resolve difficulties that undermine its rivals' positions (again, these need to be referred to in an exam answer and enough said to show that you have mastered the detail and will present as much of it as there is time for.)
- 4. Trying to rebut objections raised against it and show that they are less powerful than they appear for various reasons — in this case, the objections to be overcome concern:
… phenomenal qualities and how mental states should be defined
… the inverted spectrum hypothesis
… the Chinese Room.
- Sample examination questions
- 1. How is functionalism to be distinguished from behaviourism? Does either give the right account of the mind or person?
- 2. Does the inverted spectrum hypothesis show that functionalism about the mind is mistaken?
- 3. Does the contention that pains must hurt pose a difficulty for functionalism?
- 4. Could a machine have religious beliefs or experiences?
- Tips for answering sample questions: For each of these questions a satisfactory answer would certainly contain a brief, clear account of what functionalism is — that is, what its supporters believe about the nature of mental states and properties.
- In question 1, you would also have to give a brief definition and account of the main tenets of behaviourism and what distinguishes the two theories from each other as well as what they share.
- For question 2, you would need to give a brief but clear account of what the inverted spectrum hypothesis is and then explain how its very possibility is held to refute functionalism.
- Question 3 asks you to explain the difference between defining a type of mental state by its causal relations and defining it by its intrinsic qualitative character. The examiners would be looking for some argument to defend either the view that the defining features of mental states are causal-relational or that they are intrinsic.
- Question 4 appears more adventurous than the other three, but if you look closely you will see that what is really at issue is the possibility of a machine's having mental states (of whatever kind — ‘religious experiences' are mentioned in the question, but the same points you would make about the possibility of a machine's having understanding, sensing colour or feeling pain should be made here). Searle's Chinese room should also be discussed since the only sorts of machines that have been seriously thought to be potential possessors of mental states are computers.
COMMENT: Part 1 (The Metaphysics of Mind and Body); Section 2 (Varieties of anti-dualism and materialism); Chapter 7. Hard Copy filed in "Various - Papers on Religion Boxes (Heythrop)".
In-Page Footnotes ("Thomas (Janice L.) - Functionalism")
Footnote 1: See also Chapter 6 of this subject guide - ‘Type and token'
Footnote 3: You can read about Turing's famous test for mindedness in Priest 135-37 and Graham 94
"Thomas (Janice L.) - Davidson's anomalous monism"
Source: Thomas (Janice L.) - Mind and Person in the Philosophy of Religion
- Essential reading – 69
- Further reading – 69
- What is Davidson's theory? – 69
- Supervenience1 – 70
- Holism and anomalousness – 71
- Davidson's three principles — arguing for monism – 71
- Criticisms of Davidson's position – 72
- Conclusion – 73
- Learning outcomes – 73
- Sample examination questions – 74
- Tips for answering the sample questions – 74
- Essential Reading
- "Davidson (Donald) - Mental Events".
- "Davidson (Donald) - The Material Mind".
- "Graham (George) - Philosophy of Mind: An Introduction", 1998, pp. 164-72.
- "Kim (Jaegwon) - Philosophy of Mind", 1996, 132-39.
- "Priest (Stephen) - Theories of the Mind", 1991, pp. 115-22.
- "Smith (Peter) & Jones (O.R.) - The Philosophy of Mind - An Introduction", 1986, pp. 187-88; 249-50 (Chapter XVIII, though not essential, may also be of interest).
- Further reading
- What is Davidson's theory?
- ‘Monism' is the view that there is only one kind of substance. ‘Anomalous' means ‘lawless' or 'unlawlike'. So Davidson's anomalous monism is the theory that persons are entirely material entities (there is only one kind of substance: material substance) and there are no strict laws relating the mental states persons can be said to be in to their physical states.
- What I have just given is a thumbnail sketch/summary. Now for the detail. Davidson believes that the realm of the mind, of mental states and events, somehow resists capture in scientific laws. He thinks there are not, and cannot be, laws which relate the mental to the physical and vice versa. That is, there are none of what are sometimes called 'psychophysical laws' — laws of the form, ‘when someone is in such and such a neural/physical state he is in such and such a psychological/mental state'.
- Davidson opposes both dualism and the sort of identity theory which suggests (as the classic central state materialist position held) that science will give us more and more psycho-physical laws until we just cannot help identifying the physical with the mental.
- Although Davidson makes various passes at distinguishing mental phenomena from physical phenomena, he is not particularly concerned with making this distinction in a precise way that would settle all borderline cases. Rather, he is convinced that there are plenty of what we can all agree are central cases of mental states and phenomena which form a realm with their own special character (holism — more on this below). The realm of the mental is different from that which is the subject matter of physics. So he is a materialist. (He will argue for token—token materialism.) But he is a materialist who does not endorse reductionism. That is, he does not believe that the right way to talk about the mental is to talk as if it could be reduced without remainder to the physical.
- Davidson wants to explain and account for, not eliminate, mental states. He sees his position as non-reductive. In this he is quite opposed to thinkers like Paul Churchland ("Churchland (Paul) - Matter & Consciousness", pp. 43-49) whose own favoured theory is what Churchland dubs ‘eliminative materialism': in time, Churchland believes, we will realise that there are no such things as beliefs, hopes, fears, sensations, mental states, etc. as referred to in our ordinary everyday vocabulary of psychological attribution. These are nothing but states or events in the central nervous system.
- In contrast, Davidson believes the ‘nothing but' terminology is very misleading. For example, Bach's work of composition which produced his Art of the Fugue may have involved exclusively physical substances in action (i.e. no immaterial substance was involved) but that is precisely not to say that that inspired act of creation was nothing but a mere physical event. Rather, for Davidson, mental events are supervenient upon physical events.
… "Graham (George) - Philosophy of Mind: An Introduction", 1998, pp. 164-72 and Glossary.
… "Priest (Stephen) - Theories of the Mind", 1991, pp. 118-19.
- What does supervenience3 mean? The easiest way to explain is with a mundane example. If you sit down you may find the family dog asking to sit in your lap. Your lap is something that does not exist independently of your sitting - it is something that comes into existence when you sit and disappears when you stand up. We could say that it supervenes4 on your seated figure.
- Again, to take a more exalted example, the beauty of a beautiful statue is not an entity or substance additional to the marble of which the statue is made. Beauty is a supervenient property. That is not to say that it is unreal. Your lap is real: when you are sitting, it is really there. The beauty of the statue is also real: if the sculptor has given it the right proportions and form, then it really is beautiful. Moreover, any statue that was physically exactly like it would be beautiful too.
- But it is not the case that the vocabulary in which we attribute beauty is simply translatable into the vocabulary of physics. Or perhaps better, it is not (on Davidson's view) possible to explain the meanings of aesthetic concepts like ‘beauty' in wholly non-evaluative terms. (Two sentences ago I could not escape describing the proportions and form in virtue of which the statue would be beautiful as ‘right' - an evaluative term.) Likewise, for Davidson, mental events cannot be described or accounted for entirely in physical terms whether in terms of behaviour or in terms of neuronal states. Mental states and events are not reducible to the physical. (See "Priest (Stephen) - Theories of the Mind", p. 119) where he talks about the impossibility of explaining moral concepts in non-evaluative terms or of explaining the nature of physical objects entirely in terms of actual or possible sense contents.)
- Holism and anomalousness
… "Priest (Stephen) - Theories of the Mind", 1991, p. 119.
- The lawlessness of the mental realm is, for Davidson, the other side of the coin from its holism — the ‘special character' of the mental mentioned in the first section above. The easiest way to see what Davidson means by the holism of the mental is to think again of the futility of the logical behaviourists' attempts to account for mental states — even the simplest of beliefs — completely in terms of behaviour and behavioural dispositions. A belief that it is about to rain will translate into a disposition to take an umbrella only if you also have various other beliefs and wants — you want to keep dry and believe that umbrellas keep you that way.
- It just is not possible to identify one of a subject's mental states in isolation from the rest of his or her mental states — independently of his or her whole, largely coherent, network of beliefs, desires, intentions, wishes, hopes, fears, etc. ‘Largely coherent' means that although some of a person's beliefs and ideas may be mistaken or actually contradictory, no great proportion of them can be. If we have rational agents (and we do if we are looking at subjects with minds), we have to interpret those subjects as usually, customarily, rational, not self-contradictory, prepared to endorse the foreseeable implications of their beliefs, etc.
- But if all this is right and no single mental state can be comprehended in isolation because each depends on its place in the whole fabric of a subject's mental life for its identity, then we can begin to see why Davidson believes there can be no laws of the sort that the early identity theorists believed in, relating types of mental states to types of brain state. It is not the type of brain state it is that makes a mental state the sort of mental state it is: rather, it is its place in its subject's whole mental life. This place will, in turn, depend on the rest of the subject's beliefs, desires and intentions. And it will certainly differ from individual to individual.
- It is part of Davidson's view that one and the same (token) brain state in me might be identical with a particular thought with a particular content at some moment in my life while my exact physical double, who has been raised in a different culture and language, experiencing an exactly similar (token) brain state, might be having quite a different thought with quite a different content. So brain state type ought not to be identified with mental state type. Indeed it cannot be so identified. We will look in vain for laws connecting brain state types with mental or psychological state types.
- Davidson's three principles - arguing for monism
- But if Davidson is so firmly against type—type identity as a theory of mind, how can he be (as he is) a materialist and a monist? The answer lies in what he says about three principles, all three of which he thinks we cannot resist. They (and their titles) look far more dauntingly technical than they are on closer inspection:
… 1. The Principle of Psycho-physical Causation: ‘at least some mental events interact causally with physical events'.
… 2. The Nomological Character of Causality: ‘where there is causality there must be a law: events related as cause and effect fall under strict deterministic laws'.
… 3. The Anomalism of the Mental: ‘there are no strict deterministic laws on the basis of which mental events can be predicted and explained'.
- The first just says what common sense tells us — we all experience causal interaction between the mental and the physical all the time. For example, when light reflected off an object enters my eye (physical cause) at the end of a causal chain involving my nerves and brain I have an experience which is my seeing the object (mental effect). In the other direction, when I hear the doorbell (mental cause) I go and answer the door (physical effect).
- The second says that when an effect comes of or is produced by its cause there is some law governing the operation of that cause to produce that effect.
- As we have seen, the third principle says that types of mental state are not related by strict laws to types of physical/brain state.
- The first two principles seem intuitively to be very convincing and Davidson has given us a plausible case for the third principle. The trouble is, as Davidson says, the three seem to sit uncomfortably together. The answer Davidson gives is to show how, far from being at odds with one another, the three principles taken together give us an argument for a token identity theory of mind.
- This argument relies on the homely fact that any individual particular thing may turn out to fall under more than one type. To take a very simple example, a red triangle falls under both ‘red thing' and ‘triangle'.
- Now think of an apparent case of a mental event causing a physical one — say, my believing it is going to rain (mental event) and reaching out my hand to take my umbrella (physical event). The belief about impending rain would seem to be the cause of the reaching of the hand. If this is true then under some descriptions the belief and the reaching must together instantiate some strict causal law (by Principle 2).
- But the descriptions cannot be ‘belief that rain is coming' and ‘reaching' because (Davidson has argued) there cannot be strict deterministic laws relating a mental and a physical event (this is Principle 3).
- So the relevant description of the belief must be some physical account of what went on in my brain when I believed it was about to rain. That brain event could be and was related in a law governed by physical laws to the arm event of reaching.
- Strict laws are not available to predict what you will believe from your past thoughts or what your body will do given what you are thinking, but they are available to relate brain states to other physical states of the body. For my belief that it is about to rain to cause my physical act of reaching out for my umbrella requires that that belief be, not just a mental state, but a physical event that admits of a physical description as well.
- Davidson's conclusion, teased out of his three principles, is that every mental event that is causally related to a physical event is itself a physical event. That is, token physicalism or token identity is proven.
- Criticisms of Davidson's position
- Critics of Davidson's anomalous monism have generally not disputed the validity of his argument. Rather, worry centres in the power (or lack of it) which Davidson has granted to mental states or happenings to influence what goes on in the world. Some fear that Davidson has made mental states causally impotent.
- In the example above, my reaching out for my umbrella was supposed to be caused by my belief that it was about to rain. But Davidson's argument is that it is only the physical properties of the token brain event identical with that belief that cause my arm-reaching. If a qualitatively exactly similar brain event had happened but had failed to be identical with that mental event (belief), the arm-reaching would have been triggered by the brain event in just the same way. Only physical features have physical power, causal efficacy: only physical properties can be effective. Mental features and properties seem to be left powerless and unproductive on the causal sidelines.
- Davidson's response to this objection is well captured by "Smith (Peter) & Jones (O.R.) - The Philosophy of Mind - An Introduction" (Chapter XII, section 7, p. 249) with their example of the hurricane report on page 5 of The Times and the report of a bridge collapse on page 13 of the Guardian. The event reported on page 5 might have caused the event reported on page 13, but we would not expect there to be scientific laws phrased in terms of ‘page 5 events' and ‘page 13 events' to explain the bridge collapse.
- Likewise, we should not expect to see scientific laws relating beliefs (mental events) to actions (physical events). We should expect physical laws to be expressed in terms compatible with each other — terms, as Davidson says, that were ‘made for each other'. Terms like ‘firing pattern in my brain' and ‘arm muscle movement' are made for each other: terms like ‘belief in impending rain' and ‘muscle movement X' are not.
- Do you think that Davidson has escaped the charge of making mental states causally impotent? Does it matter whether your belief is described in terms of its content (e.g. a belief that it is about to rain) or in terms of its physical realisation (neuronal firing in such and such a pattern)? Surely it is the same entity, bringing about the same action, however you describe it?
- You must reach your own conclusion about whether Davidson has succeeded in accounting for the mind wholly in material terms and yet preserving the mind's causal power. In any event, as a proponent of a version of the token-token identity theory, Davidson must also have some response to make to any criticisms addressed to token identity theories or physicalism generally.
- You might want to ask yourself what such criticisms might be. Looking back over the various theories of the mind advanced so far in this guide you will see that there are many rivals to token physicalism who may feel they have not been defeated and are still in contention. There are also objectors who, while not claiming to have proven or resuscitated substance dualism, would claim to be able to furnish good grounds for scepticism about materialism, grounds that would make us cautious about dismissing the non-monistic alternative. In Chapter 9, we will look at some of these — the scepticism of Kripke, Nagel and Jackson.
- Learning outcomes: At the end of this chapter, having read the secondary works recommended and at least one of Davidson's own articles, you should be able to:
- Explain the meaning of ‘anomalous monism.'
- Discuss what Davidson means by ‘holism' and ‘supervenience5.'
- Outline Davidson's account of the nature of mental states and events.
- Summarise the meanings of each of Davidson's three principles and explain how together they yield an argument for token identity.
- Sample examination questions
- How does Davidson use his anomalous monism to show that a belief in God must be identical with some physical event in the believer's body?
- If psychological properties supervene6 on physical properties does this show that, in a sense, the physical properties are all that is real?
- What is supervenience7 and how does it help with the mind/body problem?
- Tips for answering the sample questions
- As in previous topics, the examiners are looking first for your understanding of the terms of the discussion. Begin by giving a thumbnail definition of ‘anomalous', ‘monism', ‘supervenience8', ‘real'. If no single agreed sense attaches to a term (like ‘real'), you should point this fact out (being careful to say what the rival meanings are) and say which sense or senses you will be using in your answer. Then answer the question. Note that in the first question above ‘a belief in God' is just being used as an example of a belief. You are being asked how Davidson defends token physicalism — the particular content of individual beliefs is not very important.
COMMENT: Part 1 (The Metaphysics of Mind and Body); Section 2 (Varieties of anti-dualism and materialism); Chapter 8. Hard Copy filed in "Various - Papers on Religion Boxes (Heythrop)".
"Thomas (Janice L.) - Criticisms of materialism - is the physical enough?"
Source: Thomas (Janice L.) - Mind and Person in the Philosophy of Religion
- Essential reading – 75
- Further reading – 75
- Introduction – 75
- Kripke's conceivability argument – 75
- Objections – 78
- Jackson's knowledge argument – 79
- Objections – 79
- Conclusion – 80
- Learning outcomes – 80
- Sample examination questions – 81
- Tips on answering the sample questions – 81
- Essential Reading
- Further reading
- There is a criticism of identity theory which needs to be examined in detail because, although it is a bit tricky and technical, it
… is a very powerful criticism
… raises issues which are very important about the tools and methods of philosophical enquiry and what can be accomplished with them.
- This is Kripke's Conceivability Argument. This argues that to reduce mental states to nothing but brain/central nervous system states is inescapably to be committed to a very strong identity (necessary identity) which even the materialist neither wants nor accepts.
- A second criticism, Frank Jackson's Knowledge Argument, threatens not just the identity theory but any sort of materialism from behaviourism to anomalous monism because it suggests that they all leave out something crucial. They leave out the felt quality of experience, the subjective nature of mental states which can be known although only by the subject himself. Since there is more to be known about the mental than would be provided by even a completed physical science, there is more to reality than the realm ranged over by the physical sciences.
- Kripke's conceivability argument
- Kripke's overall strategy can be briefly, if cryptically, stated:
… Show that identity cannot be contingent.
… Show the identity theorist that this means he or she has the task of defending the necessity of mind/brain identity.
… Explain why the identity of mind and brain cannot be defended as necessary.
- Identity cannot be contingent
- Kripke is an essentialist about mind and body — that is, he thinks that there are, in mind and body themselves, independently of our interpretation of each sort of thing, features essential to being a mind or, alternatively, to being a body.
- Bodies for Kripke are, of their very essence, public and spatial — they are accessible in principle to any observer and they have length, breadth and height. However minimally, they take up room.
- Minds, by their very nature, are private, knowable directly only by introspection, and non-spatial. They take up no room and have no spatial location. The properties which it would be logically possible or impossible for mental phenomena to possess differ markedly from those it would be logically possible or impossible for physical phenomena to possess.
- But if all these apparently highly plausible claims about mind and body are true, Kripke maintains, it cannot be right to claim an identity between mind and body, mental states and brain states. Surely, as we have just seen, the two things are essentially different.
- The rebuttal which the early identity theorists had to hand was that they had never claimed that the identity of, say, pain with c-fibre firing (a physical, brain state) was anything other than a contingent identity — one that need not have been true, one that just happened to be true. They were certainly not claiming that ‘in pain' had the same meaning as ‘in a c-fibre firing state'.
- Of course, to take an analogy, water and H2O have different essential properties - water is a clear, colourless, thirst-quenching liquid and H2O is a compound of hydrogen and oxygen in certain proportions. The two symbols (‘water' and 'H2O') have different meanings and we can easily imagine a world in which the prevalent clear, thirst-quenching liquid is not H2O. Water and H2O are contingently identical, the identity theorist says, and so too with mind and body.
- Kripke's reply is that there is no such thing as ‘contingent identity'. If you think about what identity, strictly speaking, is you will see that Kripke is saying something with a great deal of intuitive force. If a thing known under one description (say ‘water') is correctly said to be identical with something known under a different description (say, 'H2O') what is being said is that there are, not two things, but one: something is identical with itself!
- How could this be anything but a necessary truth — one that is true whatever the circumstances, come what may? Surely the proposition that states that ‘a thing is identical with itself' must be as unalterable and inevitable (necessary) as a proposition can get. Try imagining what you would have to do to a thing to make it stop being identical with itself. The very idea is nonsensical.
- If mind and brain are identical then the identity is necessary
- So the first part of Kripke's strategy — to force the identity theorist to realise that necessary identity is the only kind of identity — should be fairly readily accomplished. But why had the identity theorists ever thought it was right to describe the identity of mental states and brain states as ‘contingent'? They were persuaded that brain state/mental state identity would turn out to be another in the long line of scientific intertheoretic reductions, identifications between such things as water and H2O or heat and mean molecular motion. It seemed to them that for all these identifications there was an element of happenstance somewhere along the way.
- What is meant by ‘happenstance' here? Well, it seemed easy to conceive of how, given a different set of surroundings in another part of the universe or given a different history of development of nature since the Big Bang, there could have developed quite different identities. Why couldn't a quite different compound with a quite different chemistry be the liquid that strikes our senses as water does and serves the same role in our world and life (falls out of the sky as rain, fills the oceans, etc). And why couldn't a quite different molecular property be the one to cause us to feel hot (sense heat) when we came near what had that property (as we now do when we come near something whose molecules are in rapid motion)?
- To this Kripke responds by saying, roughly, ‘think what you are actually imagining or conceiving when you think that the identity between water and H2O is only contingent and could have been different'. You aren't imagining water, that very substance which in fact has the hydrogen and oxygen composition with which chemists are familiar, being somehow chemically different while still being water. You are, instead, imagining a wholly different world without water and with a different substance which fulfils the same roles, looks like our water, tastes like it, etc. (perhaps even gets called ‘water') but is not water.
- Kripke invents the term ‘rigid designator' for words like ‘water' in the last paragraph — words that pick out the self-same, unique thing in all conceivable circumstances (as it is sometimes said ‘in all possible worlds'). The term ‘water' designates stuff that happens to have the chemical constitution H2O but the identity of what it designates with itself (with what it designates!) is a necessary truth and nothing but. Not only ‘water' but also 'H2O' is a rigid designator and ‘water is (identical with) H2O' is a necessary truth even though we must find out truths like ‘water is H2O' by empirical research. (We don't know it a priori, independently of experience.)
- The mind/brain identity thesis cannot be defended as a necessary identity
- If holders of the identity theory are defending the truth of ‘mental states are brain states', ‘mind = brain', they must defend them as what they are, necessary truths. How do you defend a truth as necessary? At last this is where conceivability comes to the fore. A necessary truth, remember, is one that is not just true but cannot conceivably be false — it is true come what may, in all possible worlds, in all conceivable circumstances.
- So one way to prove, or at least support, a necessary truth as necessary is to look at the conceivability of its opposite or find a counter instance. If none can be found (and if we can explain why not), then this lends strong support to the claim that the original proposition or statement is, as originally suspected, not just true but necessarily true.
- By the same token, if you wonder whether a proposition which has been claimed to be necessary may not possibly fail to be necessary despite that claim, you could ask yourself whether you can conceive of that proposition's being false after all. Consider the stock example, ‘pain is (identical with) c-fibre firing'. Can you conceive of pain that is not c-fibre firing? Kripke's answer to this is, ‘Yes, of course you can'. Suppose you have a headache and, at the same time, your c-fibres are firing. You can conceive of (imagine) someone who has completely different brain events occurring in his brain (no c-fibre firing) and yet has a headache with exactly the same painful quality yours has.
- You can also, Kripke says, imagine your exact molecule-for-molecule double having the same sort of c-fibre firing as you have but feeling no pain whatsoever. So ‘pain is c-fibre firing' is not a necessary truth. But Kripke has argued that all true identities are necessary. So, if the proposition isn't necessary, it isn't even true.
- How is it, on Kripke's view, that we can imagine a world where something exists that looks, feels, tastes, etc. just like water (= H2O) but there is no water (= H2O) in that world when, according to him, there is no conceivable world where something that feels exactly like pain exists but no (genuine) pain exists? The answer is simply that pain (the phenomenon itself) cannot be distinguished from the sensation or feeling (or appearance) of pain. Thus, there cannot be a distinction between how it appears or is sensed to be and how it really is. If it hurts it is pain; if it doesn't, it isn't. There is no room for something that is pain but isn't felt or something that isn't pain although it hurts.
- This conceivability argument is very difficult to keep steadily clear about. If you want to understand and write on it in the exam, you will need to repeat the main steps in the argument again and again. Look at the outline of the argument at the beginning of the chapter. The important point is that identity can only be necessary: there is no half-way house. A contingent statement like ‘heat has turned out to be mean molecular motion' is not an identity statement. It is not, as identity statements are, a variant on the proposition ‘a thing is itself' (in this case ‘heat is heat").
- It can be used to say either ‘this is what we have found out after long research: "heat is mean molecular motion" is a true (necessary) identity' or something like ‘in this (actual) world, with chemistry as we know it, what causes sensations of heat is, as a matter of fact, (necessarily) identical with mean molecular motion'. We could have elected to call something else ‘heat', but what we now call ‘heat' could not remain that very individual phenomenon it is (with the nature it has) and also have a different nature.
- Objections: Critics have raised three objections to Kripke's argument:
- The first is a general worry about the status, scope and limits of conceivability and thought experiments1 in philosophy. What can be learned or safely concluded from thinking about what we do or do not find ourselves able to conceive or imagine? Does it matter who does or tries to do the conceiving? If I cannot imagine something or other, does this prove the impossibility of the existence or occurrence of what I failed to imagine? Are there some minds that can conceive more and better possibilities than others?
- If you do as Kripke asks and try to conceive the very mental state in which you are now being had by someone else or by yourself although your brain state is entirely different, how will you tell whether what you have conceived is that very, self-same, token mental state in different physical circumstances or a (numerically different) mental state exactly, qualitatively similar to the original? Is there any difference between the suggestions? (See "Carruthers (Peter) - Introducing Persons: Theories and Arguments in the Philosophy of Mind", pp. 151-55.) Since Kripke's purpose is to show that mental states and physical states cannot be identical because they have essentially different natures and could conceivably enjoy different fates, this criticism of Carruthers' is very well taken. Perhaps I cannot imagine this very (present token) mental state occurring in any other circumstances. Perhaps every attempt fails and all I manage is to conceive an exactly similar replica mental state which would prove nothing about whether the original mental state and its associated brain state are one entity or two.
- Some critics concede that Kripke has defeated type—type identity theory (discussed in Chapter 7), but feel that token identity remains undefeated. Could this very mental state really exist in the absence of my present brain state? Could this token brain state I am now in exist though my mind was enjoying a quite different mental state? Does my ability in each case to conceive one without the other (supposing I can) prove that this mental state and this brain state are not identical with each other?
- Jackson's knowledge argument
- Before I begin talking about this argument, I ought to say that Frank Jackson now says that he no longer believes its conclusion. However, there are two good reasons for persisting in learning about it despite its author's change of heart. First, it has been a hugely influential argument in the philosophy of mind over the last fifteen or so years and many have been persuaded by it (and a similar position found in "Nagel (Thomas) - What is it Like to Be a Bat?", p. 127) that ‘the material or physical story about us is not the complete story about us'.
- The second reason is, of course, that his argument may have been right and it may be his second thoughts that are wrong!
- If you look at "Graham (George) - Philosophy of Mind: An Introduction" (pp. 10-11), you will find a clear, brief version of Jackson's tale about Mary, the brilliant neuroscientist who has spent her whole life imprisoned in a wholly black and white environment learning everything there is to know about the science of colour vision. Supposing that all science is available to her (this story is set in the future after all the sciences have been made complete), it seems that Mary will still not know all there is to know about colour vision until she is released from her prison in order to have the colour experiences which can give her knowledge of what, for example, seeing red feels like. This fact about colour experience is beyond the preserve of physical science: there is still something for experience to teach after Mary has learned all that science contains on this subject.
- The language reply
- Learning (for example) the colour vocabulary (as Mary does when she escapes the black and white environment) is just a case of her learning to express what she already knows in different terms. It is as if she were learning a new natural language when she sees her first ripe tomato, but Mary does not really learn anything new.
- The natural reply to this objection is that no one imagines that this view captures how Mary is likely to feel and speak about her knowledge. She will not feel that she has merely learned some new words to express what she already knew all along. She will feel that she has learned something new about reality from her new experience — that ‘seeing red feels like this'.
- The different perspectives reply
- Another objection says that the knowledge argument overlooks an important point about knowledge in general — namely, that you can know all about a particular thing or happening from one angle while failing to know the same things from a different angle. Remember the example of the ineffectual speaker whose words are easy to doubt until I find out that he is the scientific expert I already respect (Chapter 2 above)? Knowledge is much like doubt in this regard. Mary could know that people whose eyes are receiving light waves of such and such a description will have brain states like this or that, without knowing that this is ‘sensing red' in those people.
- The reply to this objection is that Mary is not in the position it envisages. She is not unaware that sensing red is being in such and such a brain state. Until her release she simply does not know what sensing red is like or feels like.
- The know-how reply
- Finally, there are a number of objections to the knowledge argument which say that Mary may learn something from her first sensory encounter with red things, but it is not new factual knowledge she acquires. Instead, she learns how to do something. She now has a recognitional capacity she lacked before: she can recognise red things as such straight off, without using scientific machinery to measure the wavelengths of light reflected from their surfaces or anything of the sort. She knows red on sight, but she does not have any new factual knowledge about the world.
- This last objection (associated with the names Nemirow, Mellor and Lewis) strikes some readers as a perfect compromise solution and strikes others as a mere verbal quibble — call it ‘factual knowledge' or just ‘a new recognitional capacity', Mary seems to have something new after seeing red for the first time and it seems that that something new is not something physical.
- The dualist and materialist accounts of the mind that have been surveyed in Chapters 1 to 9 of this guide cover, or at least touch on, all the major points of view which have emerged from Plato's time to the present about the fundamental (metaphysical) nature of persons — subjects of experience, such as you and me. The main point of contention has been the question whether or not physical substances obeying physical laws are the only sort of substances (and) laws involved in the existence of persons - the paradigm cases of beings with minds.
- Some people believe that a two substance theory can overcome even the very powerful objections to substance dualism outlined in Chapters 1-4. Others are persuaded that a materialist monism (a single physical substance theory) of some sort would give the only correct account of the nature of minded subjects/persons. Finally, we have seen that the materialisms of various sorts we have examined also face some formidable difficulties:
- They are accused of leaving the mental with no power to influence action (an objection directed at Davidson).
- They are said to fail to take account of a significant part of our knowledge as experiencing subjects — namely, our knowledge of the qualitative character of experience (an objection raised by Jackson and Nagel).
- The conceivability argument seems to rule out any straightforward identity between the physical and the mental so the materialist must, at least, forswear the crudest forms of reductionism (an objection raised by Kripke).
- It may be that there are no substances which are anything other than physical, but mental properties emerge from or supervene2 upon the physical and are not reducible to physical properties.
- Learning outcomes
- After completing this chapter and reading the recommended pages and chapters, you should be able to:
… State Kripke's conceivability argument, breaking it down into its premises and showing how the conclusion depends on the premises.
… Summarise Jackson's knowledge argument in the same careful and detailed way.
… Outline and explain the force of three objections to each argument.
- Sample examination questions
- ‘I can conceive of having this very thought though my present brain and whole body did not exist.' Can a successful argument against materialism be based on a claim about what can be imagined?
- ‘When I first see a colour I have in fact never seen before in my whole life, do I acquire a new piece of knowledge?' How is materialism about the mind threatened by a ‘yes' answer to this question?
- Tips on answering the sample questions
- A successful answer to each of these questions would start by showing that you recognise which philosopher's view is being discussed (Kripke first, then Jackson). Who are the opponents addressed by each of the philosophers named?
COMMENT: Part 1 (The Metaphysics of Mind and Body); Section 2 (Varieties of anti-dualism and materialism); Chapter 9. Hard Copy filed in "Various - Papers on Religion Boxes (Heythrop)"
"Thomas (Janice L.) - The bodily criterion"
Source: Thomas (Janice L.) - Mind and Person in the Philosophy of Religion
- Essential reading – 85
- Further reading – 85
- Introduction – 85
- Identity again — criteria of personal identity – 86
- Same body, same person – 87
- Necessary and sufficient conditions – 89
- What are the limits of 'same body'? – 90
- Learning outcomes – 91
- Sample examination questions – 91
- Tips for answering the sample questions – 91
- Essential Reading
- "Graham (George) - Philosophy of Mind: An Introduction", 1998, Chapter 2.
- "Hospers (John) - An Introduction to Philosophical Analysis - Fourth Edition", 1997, Chapter 6, Section 3.
- "Noonan (Harold) - Personal Identity", 1989, especially Chapter 1.
- "O'Hear (Anthony), Honderich (Ted) - What Philosophy is: An Introduction to Contemporary Philosophy", 1991, “Personal Identity”, pp. 243-53.
- "Parfit (Derek) - Reasons and Persons", 1984, Part 3, “Personal Identity”.
- "Van Inwagen (Peter) - The Possibility of Resurrection".
- Further reading
- Burns, E. Philosophy of Religion. University of London External Programme subject guide for the BD degree (London: University of London Press 2000), Chapter 14. Both this and Vardy (see below) are useful sources for learning about Aquinas and the Roman Catholic tradition (regarding eternal life), which comes from Aristotle.
- "Glover (Jonathan), Ed. - The Philosophy of Mind", 1976.
- "McGinn (Colin) - The Character of Mind - An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind", 1982, Chapter 6.
- "Morrison (Kirstie) - The Self", especially the section ‘Personal Identity'.
- "Shoemaker (Sydney) - Self-Knowledge and Self-Identity", 1963.
- "Vardy (Peter) - The Puzzle of God", 1995, Chapter 18, 'Eternal Life'.
- "Ward (Keith) - The Battle for the Soul". Chapter 81 provides a very interesting account of the soul, which endeavours to retain what is best in materialism while being very critical of its faults.
- The first part of this guide covered topics concerned with the metaphysical status of minds. The principal question addressed there was, ‘Is an individual person one substance or two?' The answers considered were:
- Each of us consists of two substances during this life, one material or physical; the other immaterial or spiritual. At death the physical substance perishes and the true self, the immaterial substance, persists (Section 1, on Substance Dualism, of Part I).
- Each of us is a solely or exclusively physical being. The subject of experiences is either identical with (reducible to, nothing but) or is supervenient upon a material substance (Section 2, ‘Varieties of anti-dualism and materialism').
- A third possibility has been left completely untouched. This is the answer which a metaphysical idealist like Berkeley would give — that there are only spiritual/immaterial substances and that material substance does not exist. (An idealist is one who thinks that only things which are ‘of the nature of an idea' exist.) This has not proved a very widely held view and I do not myself find it at all persuasive so I have chosen — I hope not regrettably — not to give space to a consideration of the idealists' answer.
- In this part we will look at two questions:
… What is required for a mind or person to survive change and the passage of time?
… Could the requirement be met even in a case where the subject suffers death?
- A good place to start is with the thought that what it takes for a thing to continue in existence for any length of time is that it keep whatever it had to have in order that there be such a thing existing in the first place. So, in the case of persons, you should be able to use any conclusions you have already come to about the metaphysical nature of minds/persons in trying to answer the Part II questions.
- If you have decided that material substances are the only ones there are, then you will think that a person has to meet whatever are the general conditions that a material thing has to meet in order to persist over time and remain itself.
- If you believe that a person consists of a material substance somehow joined to an immaterial substance, then you will think that a person must keep the same immaterial substance in order to remain the same person through change and the passage of time.
- This chapter and the two following will survey the different answers that philosophers have given to the question what it takes for a single person, mind or self to survive through change. Both materialist and dualist accounts will be examined critically so that, whatever you take to be the correct view of the metaphysical nature of minds/persons, you will have thought about the sort of persistence persons, so regarded, can possess. Of course, we ought to consider the possibility that a person is not a substance at all, but is rather some other sort of individual. (There will be time to return to this suggestion only very briefly in Chapter 12 of this guide.)
- Although many would disagree, my view is that survival of death2 (persistence as a single individual person) is a genuine logical possibility (i.e. nothing in logic rules it out) whichever metaphysical account of the nature of persons is accepted.
- Identity again — criteria of personal identity
- The notion of strict, numerical identity was introduced in Chapter 6. This is the identity a thing has with itself and can be contrasted with the sort of identity two things — say, two pins — have with one another. If there are two pins, then they are not numerically identical. But they may be so alike that, in common speech, we would call them ‘identical', meaning that they are qualitatively exactly similar: they are ‘as alike as two pins' as the English idiom says.
- When philosophers write about personal identity it is numerical identity, not qualitative identity, they mean. But whereas in Chapter 6 it was numerical identity at a single point in time that was important, the 'problem of personal identity (which we will be examining here) is the problem of finding what makes a person at one time the very same person as the person encountered at a different time. Sometimes this is described as the problem of discovering the criterion of personal identity.
- The word ‘criterion' needs some comment. Philosophers sometimes use this word to mean ‘nature', so the criterion of personal identity in this case would be what personal identity consists in - whatever conditions are necessary and sufficient for this person to be the same person as (identical with) one encountered earlier.
- Sometimes, however, the term ‘criterion of identity' is used to mean a test that can be applied to discover whether this is a new person or some previously encountered one. A test of identity could be something like fingerprints, but no one thinks what makes you the same person you were is that you have kept the same finger prints. These may tell the world you are still the same person but they aren't what makes or keeps you the same person. You would still be you even if some horrendous accident with acid robbed you of your fingerprints. You should be careful, if writing an examination answer on personal identity, to keep distinct
… when you are writing and thinking about the nature of personal identity
… and when you have in mind the evidence or tests which can be used to establish someone's identity.
- Our main concern here is the nature of personal identity.
- Same body, same person
- Reading: Read at least two of the following:
… "Hospers (John) - An Introduction to Philosophical Analysis - Fourth Edition", 1997, 186-88
… "McGinn (Colin) - The Character of Mind - An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind", pp. 108-09.
… "O'Hear (Anthony), Honderich (Ted) - What Philosophy is: An Introduction to Contemporary Philosophy", 1991, “Personal Identity”, pp. 243-53.
… "Graham (George) - Philosophy of Mind: An Introduction", 1998, Section 2.4.
… "Morrison (Kirstie) - The Self", p. 555.
… "Noonan (Harold) - Personal Identity", 1989, especially Chapter 1.
- This last excellent book is, unfortunately, out of print. If you were to find a copy of it in a second hand shop or public library, it would be a good help to you for this and subsequent chapters.
- The so-called ‘bodily criterion' is the view that what a person must do to preserve personal identity over time is to keep the same living human body throughout. To many people the rightness of this criterion seems obvious and indisputable.
- Keeping the same living human body would not involve keeping exactly the same matter, however. After all, objects and organisms are constantly losing material to the environment and having it replaced. Cars are given new parts, saplings grow into trees, human beings lose countless cells and replace them through nutrition, respiration, etc. But it may be thought that a living body will remain numerically the same thing only so long as it replaces or adds material comparatively gradually and systematically.
- How much of the living body?
- We live in an era of medical miracles and technological wizardry. Everyone has heard of people whose lives have been extended by kidney, liver, even heart and lung transplants3. It seems that if technology advanced just a bit further, even a brain transplant4 might become possible. Imagine that this has in fact happened — perhaps a pair of accident victims with horrific but complimentary injuries might furnish the first case. Someone called Robinson with irreparable head injuries might receive into his skull the brain of Brown whose torso has been irreparably damaged although his head was unscathed.
- Suppose someone woke up after this operation, who would he be? Which person would the living survivor of a full brain transplant5 be? Many would answer that the survivor would be the brain donor, Brown. This might appear to go against what we ordinarily say in heart and other organ transplant6 cases where the recipient, not the donor, is held to survive.
- If you are inclined to agree that in such a science fiction case the brain recipient would not survive, this is probably because you believe that the brain has an overwhelmingly important role in the personal, mental, experiential life of a person. When our survivor woke up, we would expect him to recognise Brown's family and friends and to have Brown's memories, interests, projects and so forth. He would speak Brown's language not Robinson's (if these were different). We would be very surprised if he had any of the memories possessed by Robinson (whom he had never met nor known anything about).
- After thinking about such a thought experiment7 for a short while, a common response is for a reader or student to conclude that ‘the person goes where his brain goes'. The bodily criterion is really (or should be amended to be) the brain criterion8. (see "Shoemaker (Sydney) - Self-Knowledge and Self-Identity" and "Parfit (Derek) - Reasons and Persons" for more detailed discussions.)
- But is an entire brain necessary for personal survival? Even when thinking of ordinary cases — not science fiction — we are unlikely to think so. People who have had quite severe damage to one side or the other of the brain (through stroke or accident) can sometimes recover lost functions because the surviving uninjured hemisphere is able to take over roles no longer being performed by the damaged side. And even where a person has severe and unrecoverable deficits of mental function, arguably it is still the original person (not some new one) who survives thus diminished.
- Objection to the brain criterion9
- What if a human brain were to split like an amoeba? Of course, no one imagines that this is about to begin happening in the ordinary course of things. But philosophers have put two ideas mentioned in recent paragraphs together to challenge the brain criterion10 of personal identity.
- Suppose (what the last-but-one paragraph envisages as true) that a person can survive massive damage to one hemisphere of the brain. Suppose also that transplantation11 of one sound brain hemisphere became medically possible. Then, in principle, it would be possible for two Robinsons (people injured in such a way as to need a new brain to stay alive) to receive help from one Brown (brain donor). If each were given one of the donor's brain hemispheres, each would have a chance of continued life. But who would these two survivors be?
- The line of thought which said that a brain donor would survive in a single Robinson seems to suggest that the donor would survive twice in the two Robinsons case. The trouble is that such a suggestion flies in the face of a very firmly entrenched principle, the principle of the transitivity of identity. This principle is easy to understand and very difficult to disagree with. It says that things identical with the same thing are identical with each other. If A is B and also B is C then it follows that A is C.
- So the donor in this case of brain fission we are considering cannot be numerically identical with both of the survivors because his identity with each would mean that each was numerically identical with the other. And of course they cannot be numerically identical with each other because, according to the hypothesis, there are two of them! Something would seem to have gone wrong with the brain criterion12 of personal identity or anyway, our thinking about it. As Derek Parfit says, ‘how could a double success be a failure?' ("Glover (Jonathan), Ed. - The Philosophy of Mind", p. 144).
- How much of your present living human body do you think you would have to retain, intact, in order to survive as the very person you now are? Could you survive the loss of a limb? More than one? Any internal organs? Of course, if you lost certain organs (your liver, heart, brain) you would die. The question is, could you, the essential person, conceivably survive even loss of life?
- If it takes the existence of a certain sort of living body in order for there to be a person, perhaps it takes the survival of that very individual body for that individual particular person to survive. So, the question asked by philosophers who think that keeping the same living body is both necessary and sufficient for preserving the personal identity of a particular individual person is ‘what is required in order to remain the self-same living human body?'.
- Necessary and sufficient conditions
- Before exploring a number of possible answers to the last question, it would be a good idea to consider the meaning of the phrase ‘necessary and sufficient conditions'
which philosophers use such a great deal.
- A necessary condition of X is one which X could not exist without. Sometimes writers describe such a condition with the Latin phrase sine qua non ('without which not'). There could be no X (whatever it is) if this (necessary) condition did not hold.
- A sufficient condition (as the phrase implies) is one which is enough to ensure X. If the sufficient condition holds, then X exists.
- The important thing to realise is that the two sorts of condition are different: a sufficient condition guarantees the obtaining of whatever it is sufficient for, but another alternative sufficient condition could ensure X's existence if the first sufficient condition were absent. For example, if you have to get the votes of a majority out of 99 voters in order to win some election, any 50 voters voting for you will do. There are many possible different combinations of 50 to be found in a crowd of 99. Any 50 are sufficient for your victory. But you do have to get a majority. That is a necessary condition, which has to be met. Even if you do get the majority of the votes, however, you may fail to win if further necessary conditions still need to be met — perhaps there is an age, or nationality, or some other requirement for candidates.
- Some thinkers believe that keeping the same living body is a necessary condition for personal identity and is also sufficient. Others, who think retaining the same living body is important might think it necessary for personal identity but not sufficient. Still others might think it sufficient but not necessary — for them, there are a number of different ways to preserve personal identity: in the absence of sameness of body; something else (like the psychological continuity13 to be discussed in Chapter 11) might suffice. Yet other thinkers believe it is neither necessary nor sufficient to keep the same body in order to stay one and the same person.
- Think about the four possible viewpoints on personal identity just listed. Do you think bodily persistence or continuity is necessary for personal identity over time? Do you think it is sufficient? Both? Neither?
- What are the limits of ‘same body'?
- Imagine that a coin falls under a steam roller and is squashed so that it no longer has the dimensions, or other properties, of a coin. It cannot be used in a shop or vending machine. Now suppose that the lump of metal alloy it has become is taken to the mint and restruck (if this could be done). What should we say about the newly minted coin? Is it the same coin we had before? Or a new coin made from the material which earlier constituted the first coin? (You could look at "Wiggins (David) - Identity & Spatio-temporal Continuity" or "Wiggins (David) - Sameness and Substance", listed in Chapter 11's readings.)
- Contrast the squashed coin case with the case of a grandfather clock inherited by a grandson who wants to have it refurbished and restored to its former glory. He takes the case to a cabinet maker who disassembles it and, after cleaning and repairing the pieces, restores it ready to be reunited with the works. Meanwhile, a jeweller disassembles, cleans and repairs the clock workings, replaces worn parts and restores the whole to working order.
- In the coin's history there was certainly a time when there was nothing that looked like or could be used as a coin. In the clock's history there was certainly a time when there was nothing that could have been consulted to discover the time. Should we judge that either, both or neither preserved its identity and stayed a single thing throughout each history I have related?
- Some writers would say that temporal gaps extinguish identity. The fact that there was a time in the history of the lump of alloy when there was no coin is sufficient to show that two coins are involved — an earlier and a later — with no single coin preserving its identity throughout. On the other hand, it may seem less plausible to say that there is not a single grandfather clock in the story of clock and case disassembly and repair. There may have been a time when there was no clock to be used as a clock, but there seems not to have been a time which could be described as a gap in the clock's existence. It might be held that it survived (disassembled) the time when it was being restored. Indeed, the grandson would be angry if he thought he was being given a new clock after the restoration. His hope and intent were to have the old one (that very clock) restored.
- Now, consider the view that keeping the same body (bodily continuity) is essential to personal identity — that it is both necessary and sufficient for personal identity. Consider also the question whether a human body could survive a temporal gap — a time when that body did not exist. Could a living body be genuinely one and the same person as an earlier person if that body had suffered death in between the earlier and later times?
- Some thinkers would say that death constitutes a temporal gap, a time during which the body ceases to be the same (living) body as before. Such writers would invoke the analogy of the squashed coin and say that, however similar any later living body might be to some earlier one whatever agency (even God) was responsible for reassembling and injecting life into the constituents of that body; however swiftly after death the recreation of the body took place; nevertheless, temporal gaps extinguish identity. Once something has gone out of existence, however briefly, any later thing, however similar, is a replica of (and numerically distinct from) the earlier thing, not a continuation of it.
- Reconsider the four possible positions on the importance of bodily continuity to personal identity. Is death more like disassembly, or destruction? Another way to put this question might be, ‘is death, in principle, a reversible process or an irreversible one?' If you melt, and then refreeze, some frozen water, do you finish up with the same ice cube or a new one?
- Learning outcomes: After studying the material in this chapter you should be able to:
- Explain the nature of the philosophical problem of personal identity over time.
- Discuss the difference between two senses of the phrase ‘criteria of personal identity'.
- Outline what the principle of the transitivity of identity says and how the notion of transitivity can be used in an argument against the view that personal identity is just brain identity.
- Use correctly the phrases ‘necessary condition' and ‘sufficient condition'.
- Present, explain and criticise the support that a defender of the bodily criterion would give for the view that keeping the same body is either necessary or at least sufficient for personal identity.
- Sample examination questions
- If I am, after resurrection, to be the same person as my pre-mortem self, must I get my old body back? Is it possible to do so: even if I were given a body made of just the same matter, arranged in exactly the same way, would that be the same body?
- Do temporal gaps extinguish identity? For persons as well as simple material objects?
- Tips for answering the sample questions
- These two questions are really asking essentially the same thing. The second asks you, very directly, to consider whether persons are simply and straightforwardly material objects. It would be advisable to give some time to this question in an answer to the first sample question as well. You should also discuss the suggestion that death creates at least a temporal gap in the identity of a living body and that temporal gaps extinguish identity.
COMMENT: Part 2 (Personal identity and survival of death)14; Chapter 10. Hard Copy in "Various - Papers on Religion Boxes (Heythrop)".
In-Page Footnotes ("Thomas (Janice L.) - The bodily criterion")
Footnote 1: The Guide actually suggests Defending the Soul, 1992. In "Ward (Keith) - The Battle for the Soul", Chapter 7 is “The Soul and the Brain”, which is probably substantially the same as Chapter 8 in the recommended book. Both are probably superseded by "Ward (Keith) - More Than Matter: Is Matter All We Really Are?".
"Thomas (Janice L.) - Psychological continuity"
Source: Thomas (Janice L.) - Mind and Person in the Philosophy of Religion
- Essential reading – 93
- Further reading – 93
- Memory – 93
- Locke – 94
- Hume's theory – 98
- Learning outcomes – 100
- Sample examination questions – 100
- Tips for answering sample questions – 100
- Essential Reading
- Further reading
- "Flew (Anthony), Ed. - Body, Mind and Death", 1973.
- Lewis, H.D. The Elusive Self, 1982, Chapter 3.
- "Noonan (Harold) - Personal Identity", 1989.
- "Nozick (Robert) - Philosophical Explanations", 1981.
- "Parfit (Derek) - Reasons and Persons", 1984, Part 3.
- "Wiggins (David) - Sameness and Substance", 1980.
- "Wiggins (David) - Identity & Spatio-temporal Continuity", 1967.
- For many people the concerns of the last chapter — about what is required to preserve the (numerical) identity of a particular living human body — seem almost beside the point where personal identity and the possibility of survival of death1 are concerned. From their point of view, what matters2 for being me at any time in the future is that I still, at that time, possess all the features which I would say make me me — the very particular, individual person and self-conscious subject I am now. And those features and properties — utterly distinctive identifying characteristics of me — have very little to do with my physical features and properties. Or so it might seem.
- Lots of other people have the same weight, height, eye and hair colours, number of teeth, shape of nose and ears etc. It is not outlandish to suppose I might share a large number of my physical features with, not just one other person, but many of them. Anyway, I do not think of such features as very closely connected with the individual, conscious subject I am. My hair will go grey, my weight can certainly change, without my identity being lost.
- What matters3 for being (and, therefore, staying) me, such a view maintains, is possession of that collection of inner features — thoughts, particularly memories, and traits of personality and character — that constitute my own distinctive inner life, point of view and self. No one else has just that collection of memories, of retained or potentially recalled experiences, with just the significances which they have for me (see Lewis, pp. 43-44 on this point).
- (For the moment, put to one side the question whether the persistent person or self is or is not something over and above the collection of inner experiences and properties: we must and will return to it later.)
- What do you think it is that makes you, you? What aspects or characteristics of yourself would have to remain in order for you to survive? Is there any memory, thought, feeling, character trait, talent etc. which you could not lose and stay you?
- The name from the history of philosophy which most philosophers associate with a memory criterion of personal identity is that of John Locke (1632-1704). To learn Locke's views on personal identity you need to read his Essay Concerning Human Understanding Bk.II, Ch. xxvii. (Locke's Essay is usually published nowadays in two volumes or one very hefty one. Bk.II, Ch. xxvii will be in the first volume of any two-volume edition.) In this chapter Locke gives his account of identity over time for all sorts of substances — material objects, plants, animals, man and finally persons. Of particular importance for you are sections 1, 2, 6-9 (on the identity of animals, especially human beings) and from 10 to at least 13 (concerning persons). But do read the whole chapter at least once if you can obtain it (Flew's collection has some of the relevant sections). You need to be aware of two major points:
- 1. Locke's view is that, in general, ‘such as is the idea belonging to that name, such must be the identity' (II.xxvii.7). In other words, different kinds of things have different criteria of identity. For some sorts of thing, an individual must retain all its original material constituents in order to stay the particular it was. For others, however, such as plants and animals, as long as the same life is maintained, material can be assimilated in nourishment (for growth and repair) and lost, when waste products are eliminated, without any loss of identity. For some kinds, alteration of most sorts is not tolerated: for others, change is required if identity is to be preserved (for example, living organisms which grow and alter as they mature; think of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly).
- In the case of substances, Locke appeals to a very general criterion of identity over time which has come to be called by the imposing title 'spatio-temporal continuity'. This means simply ‘tracing an unbroken path through space and time' or, more briefly, ‘having an (unbroken) history'. He says at the very beginning of the chapter ‘that, therefore, that had one beginning is the same thing: and that which had a different beginning in time and place from that, is not the same but diverse'.
- A modern-day exponent of the importance of spatio-temporal continuity to the identity of material things is David Wiggins ("Wiggins (David) - Identity & Spatio-temporal Continuity"; "Wiggins (David) - Sameness and Substance" and numerous articles). He adds ‘sameness of ending' to ‘sameness of beginning' to tighten Locke's criterion and draw out the point that sameness of history of an individual is what is crucial for identity over time.
- 2. Locke distinguishes between the animal you are (a ‘man' — i.e. a human being, male or female), the immaterial substance (or soul stuff) you possess and the person you are (which is not a substance at all but something he calls ‘a mixed mode').
- (I think Locke in fact believes that the idea of immaterial substance is nonsensical but knows that the Cartesians and others believe in such a principle so he wants to distinguish it from material things like animals and from the person you are. Not every commentator would agree. Flew, for instance, thinks Locke equates person with immaterial substance.)
- Notice that Locke thinks it possible for a number of things (in our case three) of different kinds to be in the same place at the same time. So each of us, for Locke, is — not only a human and a particular immaterial substance — but also a person. And the three do not necessarily have the same history and fate. The man (or human animal)4 comes to be at conception. We just don't know anything about the history of the immaterial substance. The person could, on Locke's account, come to be and go out of existence at different times to those which begin and end the history of the human being or the immaterial substance.
- Locke's notion of a person
- ”We must consider what person stands for; — which, I think, is a thinking intelligent being, that has reason and reflection, and can consider itself as itself, the same thinking thing in different times and places: which it does only by that consciousness which is inseparable from thinking”
… Essay, II.xxvii.9.
- As far as you can cast back the net of conscious memory, that is how far the person you are stretches. If you can recall your first day at school, the day you started your first job, saying your wedding vows, hearing news of a bereavement, then you are the same person as the one who experienced the activities of those days and felt the shock of that sad news. ‘For the same consciousness being preserved, whether in the same or different substances, the personal identity is preserved.' (Essay, lI.xxvii.13) In other words, Locke is quite sympathetic even to the notion of reincarnation: he thinks the notion of a person is independent of the notion of a single living animal.
- Objections to Locke's view
- 1. Critics have objected that Locke's view cannot cope with simple memory lapse, still less amnesia. If a person has forgotten a minor infringement committed last year should we say ‘since he is not conscious of that past happening he is not the person who committed that act and thus should not be blamed or punished'? Most people would judge that he should be punished because he is the one who did it, whether he remembers or not.
- 2. Likewise most people would say that the amnesiac who cannot cast his consciousness back to events that happened before the onset of his condition is not a new person who came into existence at that onset. Rather, he is a single person who has lost all memory of the events of the earlier part of his life.
- 3. Critics also see absurdity lurking in another aspect of Locke's theory. An innocent person suffering from a particular sort of mental illness might make a sincere claim to remember doing, say, some horrendous crime reported in the newspaper. On Locke's view of personal identity, even if we have conclusive evidence of another's exclusive guilt, the false confessor must be judged numerically identical with the criminal. His memories are false but he sincerely believes them. His consciousness has, so to speak, appropriated the guilty acts and made him the same person as the guilty agent.
- 4. Butler (in "Butler (Joseph) - Of Personal Identity") objected that Locke's account of personal identity was circular, he thought that it could not be my memory of a particular happening which made me the same person as the person who experienced that happening — surely I could only truly remember it as my experience if it was my experience in the first place; that is, if I was the person to whom it happened. Memory cannot be the string on which the experiences which make up my personal history are strung and which ties them together and makes them all mine. Only my experiences belong on the string so something other than being on the string (being remembered) must identify them as and make them mine.
- 5. Finally, Thomas Reid objected that Locke's criterion of personal identity can be shown to contradict itself. Applying it can make me both identical and not identical with my past self. (This example is often cited as 'Reid's Paradox of the Gallant Officer'. For example, in "Noonan (Harold) - Personal Identity", pp. 66-67.) Suppose in middle years when doing a responsible job, I recall a prank I committed when very young. This consciousness of my childhood prank (on Locke's view) makes the youthful me the same person as the responsible adult. Years later, I may remember performing the responsible job when middle-aged though I have lost all memory of the childhood prank. Thus, in old age, I am no longer the same person I was when very young since I have lost that memory essential for uniting my youthful and elderly selves. However, by transitivity of identity, since I am the same person as my (remembered) middle-aged self and that self was identical with the child who committed the prank, I am identical with the child. Locke's criterion proves me both identical and not identical with my childhood self. This contradiction shows there is a flaw in Locke's criterion.
- Replies — psychological continuity5 and connectedness
- Those who think the Lockeian view still has much to recommend it suggest that Locke's criterion can easily be amended if we realise that memory, though important, is not enough all by itself. What is wanted is a psychological criterion so our sense that our inner life, distinctive thoughts and feelings are what makes each of us a unique self with a unique identity receives its due. But ties of memory of past experiences are not sufficient. What the desired psychological criterion needs to refer to are those repeated mundane ties of remembrance and anticipation which unite one day with the next in an overlapping fabric of psychological continuity6.
- Of course, ties of memory will sometimes connect me with my distant past self because of the heightened significance specific experiences have which makes them especially memorable. When traumatic or very special events occur in my life, their memory will endure and stay on or near the surface of my on-going mental life. In addition, when I plan schemes and projects which will be a long time in the execution I will lay down memories which (perhaps much) later will resurface. This phenomenon has been called psychological connectedness7.
- Amending Locke
- Psychological continuity8 and psychological connectedness of the sorts just sketched can together, it is claimed, resist the objections levelled against Locke's original position. Psychological continuity9 replaces Locke's simple conscious recall or memory criterion. If I am now able to remember what happened to me yesterday and last week so that today's thoughts and feelings seem smoothly continuous with those of the subject of those recent memories and if last week's subject's inner life had similar continuity with her recent past experiences and so on back through my whole history as far back as the earliest events recorded in my experience memory, then this continuity and connectedness make for a single persistent lasting self.
- If certain memories are no longer accessible to me in conscious memory, that fact alone does not sever me from the past self with whom I have the sort of psychological continuity10 just outlined. Even for the amnesiac, much psychological continuity11 and connectedness with his past life exists (he won't have forgotten how to tie his shoelaces or speak his native language to take two isolated examples) and there is always the hope that he will regain access to some of his past experiences via renewed memory connections. The person does not cease to be one and the same with the past subject with which he is continuous just because of certain memory lapses, so Reid's objection (objection 5) is blocked by this revised account as are objections 1 and 2.
- The objection concerning ‘sincere false memory' (objection 3) also loses strength on the revised Lockeian criterion since the false rememberer lacks mundane-but-across-the-board psychological continuity12 (which fills in the intervening gaps) with the real criminal. He ‘remembers' the criminal's crimes and thus has some psychological connection with him but lacks the history of minute detailed overlapping connections needed to underwrite a claim to personal identity.
- Can this revised account deal with Butler's circularity objection? This was the claim that memory presupposes personal identity and so cannot constitute it. At this point it is appropriate to raise the question left on one side earlier — the question whether the persistent person is anything over and above the collection of inner experiences, memories, thoughts and feelings which you might feel are essential to the unique particular person you are. If memories and conscious experiences do not simply belong to the person but somehow actually constitute that personal self wherever or however realised, then Butler's objection loses much of its force. If mental items are all there is to any given person then perhaps personal identity actually is constituted by memory. Shortly we will be turning to Hume whose ‘bundle' theory of the person bears a marked similarity in some respects to a sort of ‘no-ownership' view like the one just touched upon.
- Objections to the revised Lockeian view
- First we need to look at objections that could be raised to the revised Lockeian ‘psychological continuity13 and connectedness' view I have been outlining. In order to understand the major objection to this revised view, you need to be aware of a distinction between two kinds of relations. Some relations are one—one, which is to say that such a relation holds between or relates single items and only those single items, one to another. (For example, think of the relation between mother and eldest child.) Other relations are, or are potentially, one—many. Any paradigm and its copies have such a relation. (Think of any page of a book and the photocopy you take of it. You or anyone could have taken any number of copies and each would have been related to the original by the same, one-many, relation.)
- The relationship of personal identity which an earlier person bears to that person's later self is a one—one relationship it will be said. You cannot have two later persons identical with one, single earlier person (or two earlier persons identical with one, single, later person).
- But the psychological continuity14 and connectedness relationship is potentially one—many. Think of the two Robinsons case in Chapter 10. Each later person, possessing as he does half of Brown's brain, has memories of Brown's life and past and is psychologically continuous with the man who suffered the traumatic, body-crushing accident. The memories each has now were caused in the same way. They depend upon memory traces which were laid down in the same way in Brown's brain by happenings in his earlier life.
- Bernard Williams first propounded this ‘reduplication argument' in "Williams (Bernard) - Personal Identity and Individuation" apropos an example of putative reincarnation. If someone in the twentieth century were to begin to show amazingly accurate and extensive knowledge of the details of Guy Fawkes’ life and deeds we might begin to wonder whether he could really be Guy Fawkes living again in the present. If he could astound historians by suggesting hitherto unknown facts about Fawkes’ life which were later confirmed we might wonder how perfect a recall of the life of an historical figure is required before we should accept that this figure has been reincarnated.
- Williams' answer is that no amount of detail, however massive and accurate, should be taken as sufficient to prove a claim of reincarnation. This is because there is always an alternative explanation available which is no less plausible (makes no greater appeal to the paranormal) than reincarnation. That alternative explanation involves appeal to what might be called ‘complete retrocognition' of the life of the historic figure. To be endowed with such complete retrocognition would be no more mysterious (and no less) than to have undergone reincarnation. Any evidence of reincarnation, however impressive, would equally be evidence of paranormal recall of someone else's life.
- Why would we do better to accept the paranormal ‘complete retrocognition' explanation rather than the reincarnation explanation? Because reincarnation would be the return of the very (historic) person himself, a case of a present day person having personal identity with a person who died in an earlier century. But if one person could have the same mental contents as (be psychologically continuous with and connected to) Guy Fawkes, in principle so could any number of further candidates for identity with the same long-dead gunpowder plotter. But two or more persons cannot (logically) be identical with an earlier single person. On the other hand, any number could, logically, be endowed with complete access to Guy Fawkes, memories (bizarre though that assertion might seem, it does not infringe logic).
- You may feel that the right verdict should be that, as long as only one candidate for being Guy Fawkes reincarnated presents himself, massive accurate detailed recall is evidence enough of personal identity. However, this makes personal identity dependent on the failure of a sufficiently weighty rival to appear. Critics would say that it is absurd to suggest that whether or not present individual X is identical with past individual Y could depend on whether or not there is some rival candidate for identity, some completely different person, Z. Surely, either X and Y are identical or not, independently of whether any further individual of whatever description exists or not?
- Hume's theory
- "Hume (David) - Treatise I.IV.VI: Of Personal Identity": “For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe anything but the perception.”
- Thus Hume (1711-76) debunks the idea of the self — by which he means a persistent substance which exists just in order to last and be the principle of identity and unity for an individual throughout his existence. Hume is persuaded that the only things whose existence we have adequate evidence for are the ideas in our own minds, the perceptions as he calls them, of which we are aware when we are aware at all. We are, he thinks, going beyond the evidence when we believe that any objects outside us and independent of our own minds exist or when we (as he says) ‘imagine' that such mind-independent things persist for any length of time.
- Hume's is a world of perceptions or mind-dependent entities and if we think about it, mind-dependent entities are not just not independent, they are instantaneous: the thought or mental state you were in when you began reading this sentence has been replaced by a succession of perceptions as you have read each word and then its successor. As far as we know nothing — not even us — lasts!
- But Hume's scepticism about the self goes beyond even that of the last sentence. For he believes there are not even instantaneous selves — if by that is meant ‘something which has perceptions but is not itself a perception'. For Hume, the only meaning that can be attached to the notion of a person or its personal identity is the notion of a ‘bundle of perceptions'.
- Hume is sarcastic: some few philosophers may (think they) have a self but ‘I may venture to affirm of the rest of mankind, that they are nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions' (ibid.)
Hume says (259) that it is natural to wonder whether anything really binds the bundle of my perceptions (thoughts, feelings, memories, sensations, emotions, etc.) together or whether the persistent unified person is as much a creature of the imagination as he believes are the so-called bodies in the external world. He concludes that personal identity is imaginary: each of us is just a collection whose apparent unity and integration are a function of the principles of association which Hume thinks are to mental things what gravity and magnetism are to physical things.
- The imagination is led by the resemblance between one idea and another to move from the first to the second. Or if it has an idea it usually thinks of as a cause it naturally produces the idea it usually regards as the predictable effect of that cause. Memory, of course, keeps many ideas recycling and they will help bind the bundle together because they will resemble to a high degree the ideas thrown up from moment to moment by present experience.
- Objections: Hume's radical scepticism about the self and personal persistence have attracted many objections. The most important of these for our purposes are the following.
- 1. How could a perception (or even an extensive collection of them) itself have impressions and perceptions? How could memories just arise in a collection? Or to put it another way, what has become of the mind's capacities or faculties on Hume's theory? It is impossible to believe that any mere bundle of perceptions could be an active and productive mind.
- 2. Hume's account seems to leave no principled way of distinguishing one person from another. As long as each bundle's contents are different from the next no problems should arise, but there is no reason in principle why my bundle (or, rather, the bundle I am) should not replicate yours exactly. If so, we would be the same person. In other words, Hume has failed to discover whatever it is that genuinely individuates one person from another and makes each individual unique.
- 3. Critics have also objected to Hume's counterintuitive view that any change at all in any sort of thing (person, pumpkin or pickaxe) annihilates identity. Many, many small changes are constantly happening to any physical body whether animate or inanimate. Surely, you should not agree that you are extinguished, go out of existence, when you exhale or cut your fingernails!
- 4. Finally, and perhaps most seriously, Hume maintains that personal persistence is not real, it is just a product of the imagination. He has a detailed account of how the imagination is led along a succession of perceptions and is duped into identifying some of the earlier perceptions with some later ones to create the fiction of the lasting subject. But surely, in order to be misled and duped into identifying earlier with later perceptions the imagination must be a lasting subject itself — one that can have first one perception and later another and then conflate them and mistakenly think the first has lasted from earlier to later episode of perceiving. At least the imagination (which Hume practically equates with the mind) must be a lasting subject which preserves its identity over time.
- Learning outcomes: After studying the material in this chapter, you should be able to:
- Discuss memory as a criterion of personal identity.
- Recount and evaluate Locke's theory.
- Explain the notions of psychological continuity15 and connectedness.
- Describe one-one and one-many relations and the connection between these ideas and Williams' reduplication argument against a psychological criterion of personal identity.
- Explain and discuss Hume's scepticism about personal identity and the notion of a bundle theory of persons.
- Sample examination questions
- What needs to be added to memory to make a sufficient condition of personal identity?
- Can Locke's theory of personal identity by rescued from the standard objections?
- Examine critically Hume's view that there is no such thing as the self. What is Hume's bundle theory of the nature of persons? Is it defensible?
- Tips for answering sample questions
- In answering the first of these questions, write briefly about necessary and sufficient conditions to show that you understand what the examiner is asking for. Then you should talk about memory and its importance in any psychological criterion of personal identity. You should mention psychological continuity16 and connectedness as improvements on a simple memory criterion.
- The next question requires a straightforward exposition of Locke's theory. Then say what the standard objections are. Don't just list them: give a brief account of each and then say whether or not each can be overcome and how.
- Again, straightforward exposition is what is wanted in the third question. Show that you understand what Hume's theory is, what he says in its defence, what criticisms it has to face and the extent to which they damage Hume's position.
COMMENT: Part 2 (Personal identity and survival of death)17; Chapter 11. Hard Copy filed in "Various - Papers on Religion Boxes (Heythrop)".
In-Page Footnotes ("Thomas (Janice L.) - Psychological continuity")
Footnote 7: For more on the two terms 'psychological continuity' and 'psychological connectedness', see "Noonan (Harold) - Personal Identity", Sections 1.7and 1.8 and "Parfit (Derek) - Reasons and Persons", Section 78.
"Thomas (Janice L.) - What matters for survival and the logical possibility of resurrection"
Source: Thomas (Janice L.) - Mind and Person in the Philosophy of Religion
- Essential Reading – 101
- Further Reading – 101
- Does personal identity matter after all? – 101
- Parfit — what matters1 is not identity – 102
- Van Inwagen's suggestion – 103
- Other responses — Swinburne and Madell – 104
- Could persons be non-particulars? – 105
- Concluding remarks – 106
- Learning outcomes – 106
- Sample examination questions – 106
- Tips for answering the sample questions – 106
- Essential Reading
- Further reading
- Does personal identity matter after all?
- In working through the preceding two chapters and the readings for them, you will have realised that there are serious impediments to adopting either a bodily or a psychological criterion as a necessary and sufficient condition of personal identity over time. We need think of only one argument - the reduplication argument - which has been alleged to be fatal to both proffered criteria and thus, by itself, suggests that we have not as yet discovered what it is that makes a person the unique person he or she is and that, therefore, must be preserved if that person is to survive - the unique individual in question - from an earlier to a later time.
- You may well feel that the answer must lie in some merger between a bodily and a psychological condition. Surely we only have the same person where we have both
… (at least some of or some version of) the same living body and
… some of the same memories, thoughts, feelings, concerns, projects, emotions, personality features, (mental contents generally) and continuity and connectedness with the original.
- This solution may have much to recommend it: but it is, in fact, a position owing more to desperation than to dedication to finding a rigorous answer. To enter just one query: if the reduplication argument threatens both the memory criterion and the bodily criterion individually, what defence can the ‘merger' account possibly hope to make against it?
- For some writers the realisation we have reached does not seem like a reason to despair. Rather, it seems to them a salutary shock. They see it as something which will turn us towards a correct account of the self and its possible prospects. In this last chapter, I am going to look at two, mutually very different, new directions which different authors have proposed upon reaching this cul de sac.
- Parfit - what matters2 is not identity
… "Parfit (Derek) - Reasons and Persons", 1984, the beginning of Part 3.
- The first of these authors is Derek Parfit. Remember his reaction to the suggestion that transitivity of identity means that the two Robinsons (as I have been calling them) — the two survivors of half-brain transplants3 — cannot both be identical with the brain donor Brown (Chapter 10). Parfit's response was to ask in astonishment, ‘How can a double success be a failure?'.
- Each of the two brain hemisphere recipients would fail to qualify as having personal identity with the brain donor only because of the other recipient's existence and equal claim. Parfit's response is to say, ‘Then it cannot be personal identity that really matters here'. Parfit guesses that most people would regard brain donorship as a way of surviving rather than dying and would not feel that this sort of survival was negated by brain fission and dual transplant4. If you would think such a (dual) procedure (should such ever become actually possible!) a way of surviving death then you are, in effect, agreeing with him that personal identity (staying numerically one and the same, single individual) is not of crucial importance for personal survival. The logic of identity is not the whole story.
- Parfit often makes his case, not in terms of brain fission, but in terms of brain and body replication. If a science fiction machine were to scan you and (having made a molecule-for-molecule living duplicate of you) destroy your current body, would you have ceased to exist or would you have ‘moved' to a new body? Of course, in one sense you would have died: your original body would have ceased to be alive. But the question is, would you continue to live on in the new body?
- If you are inclined to say that you would live on under the circumstances depicted, you may feel that the right way to describe such a case would be to say that you would still have the same body but that it had been given a complete set of new parts (a total refit, so to speak). Such replication, remember, would not be personal identity since the original-copy relationship is not a one-one relationship but a potentially one-many relationship.
- (This talk of replicas may well remind you of John Hick's discussion of replicas which is in turn discussed in the Philosophy of religion subject guide (Chapter 14). For a brief version of Hick's position, see "Hick (John) - The Doctrine of the Resurrection of the Body Reconsidered". For a fuller treatment, look at "Hick (John) - Death and Eternal Life".)
- Activity: Parfit has, on occasion, referred to his scanner-replication story as ‘a secular version of the resurrection' (or one that a reader might describe in such terms). Consider what might be right and what wrong with regarding the resurrection promised by established religions as having the same essential features as those mentioned in Parfit's science fiction.
- This would be a good point at which to remind yourself of another objection (over and above the reduplication argument) raised by some materialists to the religious notion of resurrection. The objection I have in mind is the one based on the claim that temporal gaps extinguish identity. Suppose that, at death, your body is replicated by God in the minutest detail so that the living replica believes himself (or herself) to be you — and you, not dead or even importantly changed, but simply transported to a different place.
- Some materialists would argue that if such a divine replication were to occur, because there would be at least a nanosecond gap between the death of the original's body and the commencement of the replica's life, the replica would not preserve the personal identity of the original. There would be a new individual, astoundingly similar to you both physically and mentally, but you would have been extinguished, despite the divine agency involved.
- One suggestion might be that this is another case where personal identity is not what matters5. Since, arguably, everything that matters to you would survive in your replica the fact that such a divine replica would not, in strict logic, be (identical with) you is of vanishing importance.
- Van Inwagen's suggestion
- Read: "Van Inwagen (Peter) - The Possibility of Resurrection".
- An alternative suggestion to the one in the last paragraph might be that there are different ways of achieving replication: some of these involve genuine temporal gaps but others need not be viewed as doing so. Here I am proposing that the right analogy for death and resurrection is with the grandfather clock which gets disassembled, refurbished and restored rather than with the squashed coin whose identity and existence as a coin are terminated even if its material goes to the making of a new and different coin.
- Van Inwagen has a worry which is distinct from, but shares much with, the temporal gaps objection. He suggests a possibility which seems to me both to cope with his own distinct worry and also to offer a justification for making the choice of analogy I have just tentatively proposed. I will, therefore, look at Van Inwagen's worry and his suggested solution to it and then go on to use his suggestion to fill out my proposal.
- Van Inwagen's worry is about what he calls (47) ‘the popular quasi-Aristotelian story that is often supposed to establish the conceptual possibility of God's restoring to existence a man who has been totally destroyed'. This story is one of reassembling all the atoms of a dead man's body and reanimating them. The problem is that simply putting all the atoms of a thing back where they were is not restoring the original because part of what that original essentially was was the product of a particular agency or causal chain. A different agency would not and could not recapture that aspect of the original — an aspect which is crucial for identity:
- …he can never be reconstituted, for the causal chain has been irrevocably broken…[after reconstitution, his atoms will occupy their positions] because of God's miracle and not because of the operation of the natural processes that, taken collectively, were the life of that man.
- On the final page of his article, Van Inwagen suggests that
- Perhaps, at the moment of each man's death, God removes his corpse and replaces it with a simulacrum, which is what is burned or rots. Or perhaps God is not quite so wholesale as this: perhaps he removes ‘for safe-keeping' only the ‘core person' - the brain and central nervous system — or even some special part of it. These are details. (49)
- By preserving the new corpse or ‘core person' for later reanimation, God would (on this suggestion) preserve the causal chain which is a vital part of what makes any human the unique person he or she is. The same unique individual who hoped for resurrection would live on when reanimated.
- Thus Van Inwagen's suggestion copes with his own worry. And it seems to me that it can also be adapted to cope with the objection which springs from the belief that temporal gaps extinguish identity. If resurrection is viewed as very much on the analogy of Parfit's scanner-replication thought experiment6 then the temporal gaps objection may seem insurmountable. New material arranged to the old blueprint cannot preserve the causal chain with the old you.
- But suppose that the replica consisting of entirely new material comes about because a preserved core person has, in addition to being reanimated, gradually and systematically been given a replacement of all its material parts and supplemented with whatever new material is necessary for it to be a whole, capable of living to the full (whatever that may mean) its renewed life. Bodily and psychological identity would have been ensured by these means and personal identity would thus (or so it seems to me) have been preserved for the person in question as successfully as your identity is preserved over each night as you sleep.
- Other responses - Swinburne and Madell
- Parfit's response to the reduplication argument (among others) was to say that, perhaps surprisingly, personal identity is not crucial when we think about what matters7 most to us concerning our personal future. The response of other writers is quite different. To them it is still of the utmost importance for my survival that my survivor be — whether recognisable by me as such or not — numerically identical with me.
- Both Swinburne and Madell would say that (at most) only one future person can be me — whatever numbers of future persons are psychologically or physically continuous with my past self or think themselves my survivors. Parfit thinks that it is indeterminate whether any of my replicas, for example, is numerically identical with me or not. But Swinburne would say that it must be determinate, so our feeling of being unable to decide in some cases must simply be a function of the fallibility and incompleteness of the evidence (tests) we usually use to discover personal identity.
- In a replication or fission case, we are unable to tell which of two rival candidates for personal identity with some earlier person is the real successor. (The evidence seems to be equally good for both. Each has psychological continuity8 and connectedness with the original: each has the same amount of bodily continuity with the original.) That fact, however, does not show that neither is (nor that both are) identical with the original. The true state of affairs simply lies beyond our evidential capacities.
- On Swinburne's view, what makes one or the other (or neither) as a matter of fact identical with the original is that God has assigned the unique soul which determines identity in the case to one or the other or none of the available candidates ("Swinburne (Richard) - The Evolution of the Soul", p. 153).
- Swinburne is convinced that each of us is furnished with an immaterial soul which acts as a principle of identity. It is the sole principle of personal identity and it is neither endowed with physical identifying characteristics (obviously — it is an immaterial substance) nor endowed with mental characteristics or properties like memories or personality traits. If, by some miracle, you and I were to exchange mental contents so that you, for example, could recognise all of my friends and family but none of your own and could recall all the events which I can now recall from my own past life but none from your own, on Swinburne's theory you would still be you and me, me, provided only that God continued to sustain the connection between your soul and your body (154).
- Madell, also, feels compelled to adopt dualism by the difficulties encountered by both the bodily criterion and the psychological criterion of personal identity. His reservations about both suggested accounts are linked to his conviction that a defensible theory of persons must take account of the facts of subjectivity which we encountered in the positions adopted by Jackson and Nagel (Chapter 9).
- Read "Madell (Geoffrey) - Personal Identity and the Mind-Body Problem". Madell believes that dualism is the only theory that can solve the puzzle of personal identity and take due account of the phenomenon of subjectivity. (You might look again at the relevant part of Chapter 9 of this guide, to remind yourself about subjectivity, qualia, ‘phenomenal feel', ‘what it's like' etc.) Try to decide what Madell's immaterial substance is like: he argues that it is not a mental substance and that such a notion is a perfectly useless one. How does it do the jobs that neither a physical nor a mental substance can or could do?
- What is the nature of Swinburne's immaterial substance? What argument does he give for the existence of such a part of me?
- Could persons be non-particulars?
- There is time only to mention the following possibility (hinted at in Chapter 9). Not all the things that we value highly in life are individual substances — material particulars which we could confine in a box whether large or small. Some individuals are not particulars, as philosophers use that term, at all. Especially works of the human imagination, highly individual though they undoubtedly are, are not particular: things like symphonies, plays, novels and poems, works of philosophy, can all have, in principle, any number of copies or renditions.
- You and I can both own (and frequently play) the same recorded performance of the same Beethoven concerto, perhaps at the same time, in our different parts of the world. You can read your copy of Priest or Graham while I am reading mine. We are reading one and the same book although it is in two or three or many places at the same moment. Perhaps persons too are non-particular individuals. Perhaps your pre mortem ‘performance' is just one of several your fate will allow.
- Concluding remarks
- By this stage in your study of this subject, I hope that it is obvious to you that even the wide-ranging survey of topics and authors which has been conducted so far is really more of a solid beginning than a complete treatment. Almost every book you have been asked to consult has had a bibliography of ‘Further reading' containing items that would enlarge your understanding and take it within reach of new puzzles to challenge your accepted beliefs, as well as new answers for both the novel and the familiar puzzles. If you have mastered some of the material pertinent to the majority of the topics dealt with in this guide, your success in the examination should be assured. I hope that, at the same time, you will have ensured an enduring interest in the subject which will lead you to continue to read and think about the endlessly fascinating philosophical conundra surrounding the nature of minds and persons.
- Learning outcomes: By the end of your work for this chapter, you should be able to.
- Explain why Parfit thinks survival, not personal identity, is what matters9.
- Outline and discuss Van Inwagen's worry and his proposed solution.
- Comment upon the ‘temporal gaps' objection to the suggestion that resurrection is divine replication.
- Explain Swinburne's response to the replication argument and also outline and criticise his argument for the existence of soul stuff.
- Sample examination questions
- Would your molecule-for-molecule exact physical double have your exact mind and mental contents? Would that person be (another) you?
- Is spiritual or immaterial substance the key to personal persistence?
- Tips for answering the sample questions
- In answering the first part of the first question, all you can really say is what most people seem strongly inclined to say — that such an exact double would think and feel exactly what you do. In answer to the second part, you would again need to say that most people react to such questions by saying that the double would believe that he or she was in fact the original. Of course, the point of the question is to get you to think of the differences between what feels possible and what logic allows: your double and you cannot both be you! You would then need to expound Parfit's view and what is to be said for and against it.
- To answer the second question well, you would have to discuss Swinbume or Madell or both, giving their reasons for dissatisfaction with materialist accounts of persons and their arguments for their own versions of dualism.
COMMENT: Part 2 (Personal identity and survival of death)10; Chapter 12. Hard Copy filed in "Various - Papers on Religion Boxes (Heythrop)".
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2018
- Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)