Philosophy of the Mind

Topics: Mind, Philosophy of mind, Consciousness Pages: 7 (2354 words) Published: December 4, 2013




The philosophy of body and mind has been a highly debated topic since its launch in the 17th centaury by Rene Descartes. Since then, many philosophers have written on the subject matter and many theories have emerged as a product of this lively debate. In this essay, I will analyze and critique a selection of philosophers who ponder on the body-mind topic since the 17th century, and ultimately evaluate Paul M. Chruchland’s claim that folk psychology should be eliminated and replaced by completed neuroscience.

For the purpose of this essay it is important to set the defying parameters of folk psychology, as there are 3 working definitions of folk psychology within the philosophical field. Firstly, folk psychology “is used to refer to a particular set of cognitive capacities which include—but are not exhausted by—the capacities to predict and explain behavior.” (Ravenscroft 2010). Secondly, it is a theory that describes behavior in the brain. Finally, folk psychology is a psychological theory of speculation of the mind, one that ordinary people seem to embrace. (Ravenscroft 2010). The first definition will be the working definition of folk psychology (from now on FP) throughout this essay. Further, FP maintains that it can, in a sense mind read mental states (desires, fears, sensations etc). Why folk psychology is considered a theory will be elaborated on later in this essay. The section that follows will examine how body-mind problem began.

Body-Mind Problem
In western thinking, the Greeks (600 BC) were the first to make the distinction between the mind and body. Nevertheless, French philosopher, mathematician and physiologist Rene Descartes is often granted the title: the father of the mind-body problem, as he was the first to introduce a distinction. Descartes believed that the body and the mind are different entities. By body he referred to “whatever has a determinable shape and definable location and can occupy a space in such a way as to exclude any other body; it can be perceived by touch, sight, hearing, taste, or smell, and can be moved in various ways, not by itself but by whatever else come into contact with it.” (Cottingham, 222). Moreover, Descartes argued that the body or physical substance is located in time and space while the mind or mental substance only exists in time, not space. Not in space, as there is no physical property that pin points to the mental substance. Today however, some neuroscientists may claim that the thinking self, or mind, can be located in the prefrontal cortex, the selfrationalizing part of the brain. Descartes famous philosophical statement ‘cogito ergo sum’, I think therefore I am, is essentially the leading rationale that led him to assume the line of reasoning that thought alone is inseparable from him “I am, I exist –that is certain.” (Cottingham, 223). This argument is not only based on ‘cogito ergo sum’, but also on the deceiving nature of the senses. However before his doubtfulness of the senses’ reliability, Descartes noticed how ideas and thoughts derived from direct conscious senses caused noticeably more vivid thoughts than the thoughts he would conceive through mere dreams and memories, absent this direct conscious sense perception. Dreams and memories only provided him with knowledge, which are the ideas themselves. (Cottingham, 224). This caused Descartes to momentarily abandon

his skepticism of the senses, however as the senses increasingly began to deceive him, his idea that the senses could not be dependent on gradually formed. Descartes utilized arguments such as the phantom limb (feeling pain in a limb that is absent from the body itself). As Descartes developed his Meditations writings, the link between his line of thinking and dualism overlapped progressively. Dualism derived from the Latin word duo, meaning two, unifies the physical to the spiritual, the body to the brain. Evidence...
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