The Infinite Poolof Experiences
According to this definition of experience, the brain can be neurologically configured in any way imaginable, and there will be a set of experiences (drawn from a hypothetical
) to parallel it. Furthermore, these experiences will undergo
,thereby creating a reality, and this reality will be meaningful to the beholder. The correlative formula adds that, whereas the activity of the brain acts as the
of behavior, the mind acts as the
for behavior. It was also emphasized that this formula is
correlative - nothing entails from this about the causal relation between mind and matter. The purpose of this paper is to account forcausation.
If there is a philosophy that stands in stark contrast to the Theory of Mind and Matter presented here,
(or materialism)probably fits the bill more than any other. Physicalism is the view that everythingthat exists is either physical or can be described inphysical terms. To the physicalist, consciousness and mind are really just physicalphenomena. They say that what we take to be ourown subjective qualitative experiences are really just neuro-chemical events occurring in the brain. They say that mind and brain areone, and that mind should be explained in terms of the brain.
Physicalists are typically divided into two camps: there are the
), who subscribe more or less to thedescription of physicalism just given, and then there are the more radical
, who would rather say that consciousness andmind don't exist (as opposed to reducing them to the brain). The names speak for themselves - the reductivists like to
, whereasthe eliminativists like to
. The essential difference is that one would prefer to keep the terms "consciousness" and "mind",recognizing that they indeed refer to something real, whereas the other would prefer to throw the terms permanently out of thevocabulary. The latter regard mind as some archaic fabrication that we invented in order to explain human nature, much like the wrath of the gods explaining earthquakes or lightning and thunder. Whether the topic is earthquakes, thunderstorms, or human nature, we nowknow the real causes of these things, thanks to modern science, and so we don't need these fairy tales. They ought to be scrapped infavor of physical explanations - so say the eliminativists.Personally, I've never understood the latter position. I'm all for the wholesale rejection of
dualism - according to which mindis a separate and distinct
from matter, belonging to the more divine realm of spirit and metaphysics - but I don't understandhow one could go about his/her life, experiencing subjective mental states such as color, thought, emotion, sound, pain, pleasure, taste,smell, dreams, etc. and not believe these things exist in some sense. That's why I take the reductive approach to be far more reasonable(even though I ultimately disagree with it). Perhaps the eliminativist would say that the terms "consciousness" and "mind" were nevermeant to denote these subjective experiences, but rather the classical Cartesian notion of a spiritual/metaphysical substance that standsapart from physicality in some parallel netherworld. If that is the case, fair enough - but we still ought to consider the alternative view,which I am certain is taken up by the vast majority of people (lay and professional), that "consciousness" and "mind" refer to just thesesubjective experiences that one can only apprehend from a first person point of view. One needn't be taught some abstract theory tounderstand these things; one need only have immediate access to his/her own mental states. Thus, I don't understand why theeliminativist is so zealously bent on opposing this at all costs. Why must we express our emotions, or describe how something tastes, orarticulate our thoughts in the form "such-and-such neuro-chemical event is happening in my brain"? The words "emotion", "taste","thought" and so on are not mere space fillers - as though we had no clue what's going on inside our heads - they denote actualsubjective states of mind that we consciously experience.
Thomas NagelWhat Is It Like to Be a Bat? Echolocation
Needless to say, I'm not fond of the eliminativist view; but that isn't to say thatI subscribe to thereductivist's either. I'm inclined to agree with
's critique of reductivism - or physicalismin general - who has perhaps struck the most damaging blow to the whole physicalistagenda. In hisseminal paper of 1974 "
What Is It Like to Be a Bat?
", Nigel argued the point that no amount of scientific investigation into the bat's neuro-physiology would ever yield insight into what it's like to
the bat. Such an exercise would only give us the physical facts about the bat, but not the experience hadfrom the bat's own point of view. The bat is especially convenient here because of its use of
- a mechanism whereby it emits sonic pulses in dark places and uses its echo to determinethe spatial layout of its surroundings and any objects therein. This is a highly specialized sensory system- one that no human will ever have the privilege of experiencing. What it's like tobuild a mental map of one's surroundings using only one's echo as a guide is something very difficult to imagine indeed. Thus,Nagel's use of the bat was ideal. He argued that it is absolutely essential to consciousness that it is likesomething to have it, and that what it is like may differ from one conscious being to another. How itdiffers, or
it differs, cannot be demonstrated by a scientific investigation into the physiology of the subject in question.Neuroscientists can study the brain to their hearts' content, but no matter how much knowledge they amass, no description can be given,solely on the basis of this knowledge, of what the corresponding experience is like.Nagel's intention wasn't so much to attack physicalism outright, but to lay down the ground rules for such an approach if it were to betaken seriously - as serious as science itself. The most crucial rule was that if any account of subjective experience is to be given, itmust be given from the first person perspective, for that is the only perspective in which there can be subjective experience. It makeslittle sense to talk about subjective experiences in the third person perspective, which is what science is limited to, and so Nagel poseshis critique as a challenge to physicalism. If physicalism is true, then we should be able to render subjective experiences in physicalterms - but physicality is the exclusive domain of science, and thus makes sense only from the third person point of view. The wayNagel put it was that a physical science of consciousness would need to render its explanations objectively (third person), for science,by definition, must be objective, but since consciousness is an essentially subjective phenomenon (first person), such an explanationwould seem hopelessly out of reach. But as already mentioned, he wished to put thisargument forward as the criteria that physicalism isobliged to meet, not as a reason to abandon it. If physicalism could surmount this obstacle, said Nagel, all the better for it.Taking the ball from Nagel, and making no secret of his attack on physicalism, was
who presented his "Mary's Room"thought experiment (in the article "
") to dispel physicalism. Jackson believed that physicalism
overcome Nagel's challenge, and so he took Nagel's argument to its logical conclusion:
MM-Theory - The Advanced Theory of Mind and Matterhttp://www.mm-theory.com/advanced/advanced.htm2 of 504/2/2010 3:27 PM