Mind.Body.History.John.Beloff.1994

Mind.Body.History.John.Beloff.1994 - 1994 Abstract The...

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1994 Abstract The mind-brain problem, which is still with us, raises the question as to whether the mind is no more than the idle side-effect of our brain processes or whether the mind can, in some degree, influence behaviour. Here we rehearse the arguments on both sides plus some desperate recent attempts to eliminate mind altogether. The Mind-Brain Problem However contentious, the philosophical problem, as distinct from the physiological problem, can be stated quite simply as follows: What, essentially, is the relationship between events in the brain and those private, subjective, introspectible experiences that together constitute our inner mental life? We need not assume here that consciousness is synonymous with mind - consciousness may well be no more than just one aspect of mind - but, with respect to the problem at issue, it is the existence of consciousness that is critical. Stated thus, the problem admits of only three basic answers: (1) Events in the brain, operating in accordance with the laws of physics, determine completely both our behaviour and our subjective experiences. (2) Mental events may be elicited by events in the brain or they may, in turn, elicit brain events and so influence the course of our behaviour (I use here the word 'elicit' rather than 'cause' advisedly since the kind of causation here envisaged is so unlike familiar causation of the physical kind). (3) There are no such things as private, subjective, introspectible, sense- data or qualia (e.g. that red patch that I am now staring at in the centre of my visual field). Hence there just is no problem. All that exists, in the last resort, are the physical events underlying the information-processing, colour-coding or whatever such as any sophisticated computer or automaton could, in principle, be programmed to perform. It follows that there is no mind-brain problem for humans or animals any more than
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there is for robots or other artificial intelligence. There are, of course, innumerable alternative formulations. The most salient, historically, is the Idealist position according to which the brain, along with all other physical contents of the universe, is just a creation of mind. But, despite the eminence of some of their proponents, these other options are too strained, too evasive, or just too incoherent to detain us here and I shall take the liberty of ignoring them. Regarding the three contenders I have enumerated, I shall call (1) Epiphenomenalism, Double-Aspect, or just Weak Dualism; (2) Interactionism, Radical or just Strong Dualism and (3) Monistic Materialism or Functionalism. I shall argue that (3) is so flagrantly counter-intuitive that, although widely endorsed at the present time by so many of the foremost philosophers, psychologists, physiologists and exponents of artificial intelligence, we have the right to reject it and reaffirm that there is a mind-brain problem. Accordingly, our only serious options are (1) and (2). I shall not attempt to disguise my own
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This note was uploaded on 04/21/2008 for the course BIO 101 taught by Professor Pott-santone during the Spring '08 term at Northeastern.

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Mind.Body.History.John.Beloff.1994 - 1994 Abstract The...

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