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Physicalism V Dualism-the Mind/Body Problem

By murop9 Apr 14, 2010 1317 Words
Prompt 2- Physicalism v Dualism

In philosophy there are a number of different views when it comes to the mind/body problem. The mind/body problem is the problem of explaining how the mind relates to the body. One of these views is called dualism. Dualists utilize Leibniz’s law to support their argument that the mind and body are two different things. On the other hand there is also another group of philosophers called physicalists. Physicalists claim that everything including psychological aspects are tangible and they use a concept called modes of presentation to support their beliefs against dualism. In this paper I will be further explaining Leibniz’s law and how it is used by dualism. I will also go into the modes of presentation concept and how physicalists use it as a response to dualism.

Leibniz’s law, also known as the indiscernibility of identicals, states that if A and B are one and the same thing, then A must have all the same properties of B and vice versa. For example If Spiderman can shoot webs out of his wrists, and Peter Parker is Spiderman, Then Peter Parker can also shoot webs out of his wrists. Here A is Spiderman and B is Peter Parker. Leibniz’s law would also imply that if A and B have different properties, then A and B cannot be one and the same thing. For example, let’s say that I look out the window and I see Spiderman swinging by on his spider web. I wonder who Spiderman is. Now as Spiderman is swinging by, I see my buddy Harry Osborn standing besides me. Using Leibniz’s law, I reason like this: Spiderman is swinging by on a spider web. Osborn is not swinging by on a spider web; he is standing right besides me. In this example, Spiderman is A, and Osborn is B. Spiderman has a property that Osborn does not, so using the law, we can confidently say that Osborn is not Spiderman and Spiderman is not Osborn. When it comes to supporting their beliefs, dualists specifically employ the second type of example, that A is not one and the same with B.

Dualist’s believe that the basic components of the universe consist of fundamentally two different types of things. There are purely physical objects and properties, and there are also purely mental or non-physical objects and properties. The mental or non-physical objects being the mind aspects (e.g. beliefs, desires, pain), and the physical objects being the body aspects (e.g. limbs, brains, organs). No non-physical/mental objects have shape, color, mass, etc… but all physical objects do. You cannot say that you’re beliefs are pink or that your senses are big, but you can say that your brain is pink and your arm is big. We also know that non-physical/mental aspects can have intensities, and that physical objects cannot. For example you cannot say that you’re brain or its parts are intense, but you can say that you’re headache is intense. Giving physical objects aspects that only non-physical things hold or vice versa is an example of a category mistake. Dualists utilize the examples of category mistakes and Leibniz’s law as arguments for dualism.

The way dualists use Leibniz’s law is by saying the following: F is true for the non-physical/mental thing; F is not true of the Physical thing; therefore the non physical/mental thing is not the same as the physical. Where the non-physical/mental is A, the physical is B, and F is something that if attributed to A is true, but if attributed to B would be a category mistake and is therefore false. For example: Your headache is painful; your brain and its parts are not painful; therefore your headache is not your brain or its parts. This can be used the other way, where A is the physical and B is the non-physical/mental. For instance you can say: Your brain and its parts have mass and color; your psychology and its aspects have no mass or color; therefore your psychology is not your brain or its parts. There are numerous other examples like these that dualists use to show how physical properties are not the same as non-physical properties and how they are two completely different things. These are also the types of arguments that physicalists attack and use to undermine the dualist belief.

Physicalists, as I mentioned in the beginning, claim that everything in the universe is physical and that all of the psychological or mental aspects are also physical. This argument is of course completely opposite of what dualism claims and is in fact a response to dualism. Physicalists use something called the modes of presentation in an attempt to show how dualists are thinking of things in the wrong way. They say that the mind is identical to the brain just like Spiderman is identical to Peter Parker. They are presented in different ways but they are essentially the same person and can do the same things. The modes of presentation concept and how physicalists use it as a counterexample to dualism and can be explained with the following example: To Mary Jane, Spiderman swings around New York using his super powers to fight crime and attempt to keep the justice in the city; Also to MJ, Peter Parker does not swing around New York using his super powers to fight crime and attempt to keep the justice; therefore, to MJ, Spiderman is not Peter Parker and Peter Parker is not Spiderman. But, we know that in fact Peter Parker and Spiderman are one and the same, MJ, through her ignorance fails to realize this. In this case MJ is committing something known as intensional fallacy because she fails to recognize that Spiderman and Peter Parker are the same person, or have the same extension. Intension is the way that a word or name is linked to an extension. Extension is everything to which a name or a term can be applied to. So the extension of Spiderman can be applied to a man that has super powers that allow him to shoot webs out of his wrists and climb walls, just to name a few. So you can say that an extension of Spiderman is Peter Parker. That’s why MJ would be committing intensional fallacy, because she doesn’t believe that the intension attached to Spiderman and Peter Parker has the same extension.

The way physicalists use this against dualism is by saying that in their arguments, dualists are in fact committing the same intensional fallacy that MJ is committing with Spiderman and Peter Parker. Physicalists claim that your brain has a physical mode of presentation as well as a psychological/mental mode of presentation. They are two different modes of presentation, but like Spiderman and Peter Parker, they are one and the same thing. We are only able to see the physical mode of presentation from the way we look at the brain, but we are unable to see the psychological/mental mode because it is beyond us. For example, physicalists would argue that your belief that you are reading this paper is identical to a part of your brain; they are just unable to pinpoint which part that is exactly, but of course they say it will eventually be possible to do so. They also say that if you look at your beliefs in the psychological/mental mode of presentation, it doesn’t have color, but in physical mode it does. We have to think of beliefs and all the psychological aspects in a physical mode of presentation. Thinking this way would allude to the conclusion that whatever is true of the brain is also true of the mind.

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