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The Mind-Body Problem

This lecture will help you


understand:
The Problem of Interactionism
Responses:
Leibnizs Pre-established Harmony
Argument
Malebranches Occasionalism

Materialism/Physicalism
Encephalic Injury (Phineas Gage)

Question 1:

What is the Mind-Body Problem?


A. What is the fundamental nature of mind
and body?
B. How are mind and body related?
C. How do I know other minds and bodies
exist?
D. A and B

Res Cogitans (Descartes)


But what then am I? A thing which thinks.
What is a thing which thinks? It is a thing
which doubts, understands, [conceives],
affirms, denies, wills, refuses, which also
imagines and feels (IP 225).

Mind-Body Split
MIND
(thinking thing or substance, soul, spirit)
(res cogitans)

BODY
(physical thing, extended substance,
matter) (res extensa)

(Substance) Dualism
Dualism (L, dualis, duo, two): the view that
reality consists of two quite distinct
substances.
In philosophy of mind, the belief that the
mental and physical are deeply different in
kind: thus the mental is at least not identical
with the physical.

a ghost
mysteriously
ensconced in a
machine (Gilbert
Ryle, The Concept of
Mind (1949))

The Problem of Interactionism


The most difficult problem with Descartes
theory is called interactionism.
How do mind and body, which are allegedly
completely different substances, interact? How
do they affect each other?

PHYSICAL EVENT
Hammer hits toe

MENTAL EVENT
Pain

CAUSAL RELATIONSHIP

Weeping

Sad thoughts

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXojf4hYGQk

Neurons?

How does a mind affect the brain? Or: How


does a mere thought make a neuron fire?

Billiard Ball Analogy


8

88

Imagine 2 scenarios:
A. Billiard ball miraculously starts to move?
B. Billiard ball miraculously comes to a halt?

Descartes SolutionThe Pineal


Gland
This woodcut from
Descartes 1644 Principles
of Philosophy represents
Descartes theory of
vision and its interaction
with the pineal gland.

Conservation of Energy Argument


Substance dualism would seem to violate the
first law of thermodynamics, which is the
total energy of the system and its
surroundings is conserved.
If the mental realm is continually impinging on
the universe and effecting changes, the total
level of energy in the cosmos must be
increasing, or at least fluctuating.
But it isnt!

Parallelism
The view that mental and physical phenomena
occur in parallel but that these simultaneities
never involve causal interactions.
Correlation but not causation.

Pre-established Harmony
A view originated by Leibniz
whereby
1. the mental and the material
comprise two different kinds of
substance
2. neither has any direct causal effect
on the other
3. the coincidence between mental
and material events is due to both
substances being created to act in
concert even though there is no
post-creation interaction between
the two.

Mind

Body

Occasionalism
A view popularized by Nicolas
Malebranche (1638-1715)
whereby:
1.
2.
3.

the mental and the material


comprise two different kinds of
substance
neither has any direct causal effect
on the other and
all seeming interactions between
the two are due to the continual
intervention by God who brings
about a change in one on the
occasion of a change in the other.

Materialism/Physicalism
The view that everything that actually exists is
material, or physical. Materialists are
philosophers who think that there exists in the
universe just one substance: matter. There is
no mind distinct from the body directing its
actions.

Scientific Evidence

As far as we can tell


scientifically, mental
function is tied to
brain function, so
that when the brain
comes permanently
to an end, mental
function does too.

Alas, poor Yorick! I


knew him, Horatio; a
fellow of infinite jest, of
most excellent fancy;
he hath borne me on
his back a thousand
times; and now, how
abhorred in my
imagination it is! My
gorge rises at it. Here
hung those lips that I
have kissed I know not
how oft. Where be
your gibes now?
(Hamlet, 5.1)

Soul weighs 21 grams


In 1907, an American medical doctor Duncan
MacDougall weighed six patients while they were in
the process of dying from tuberculosis in an old age
home. The entire bed was placed on an industrial
sized scale which was apparently sensitive to the
gram. He took his results (a varying amount of
perceived mass loss in most of the six cases) to
support his hypothesis that the soul had mass, and
when the soul departed the body, so did this mass.
Soul weighing 21 grams

Phineas Gage (1823 1860)


American railroad
construction foreman who
incredibly survived an
accident in which a large
iron rod was driven
completely through his
head, destroying much of
his brain's left frontal lobe.

Gage was no longer Gage.


The injurys reported effects on his personality
and behavior were so profound that friends
saw him as "no longer Gage."

Dr. John Martyn Harlow


The equilibrium or balance, so to speak, between his intellectual faculties
and animal propensities, seems to have been destroyed. He is fitful,
irreverent, indulging at times in the grossest profanity (which was not
previously his custom), manifesting but little deference for his fellows,
impatient of restraint or advice when it conflicts with his desires, at
times pertinaciously obstinate, yet capricious and vacillating, devising
many plans of future operations, which are no sooner arranged than
they are abandoned in turn for others appearing more feasible. A child in
his intellectual capacity and manifestations, he has the animal passions of
a strong man. Previous to his injury, although untrained in the schools, he
possessed a well-balanced mind, and was looked upon by those who knew
him as a shrewd, smart businessman, very energetic and persistent in
executing all his plans of operation. In this regard his mind was radically
changed, so decidedly that his friends and acquaintances said he was "no
longer Gage."

Question 2: Interactionism suggests that


which of the following statements is true?
A. We have both a mind and a brain, and they causally
affect one another
B. We have both a mind and a brain, and the brain causally
affects mental events, but the mind cant causally affect
physical events
C. We have both a mind and a brain, but they dont interact
since one is purely mental and one purely physical
D. While we are sure we have a brain, we must remain
skeptical about whether or not we have a mind

Questioning the Soul


What is the nature of the soul?
What reason is there to suppose that the soul, so conceived,
exists?
Do nonhuman animals have souls as well, and if not how can
one detect the presence of the soul in an embryo while being
confident of its absence in a dog?
Assuming that souls do not come in degrees, so that the
possession of a soul is all-or-nothing, when in the course of
evolution did our ancestors begin to be endowed with souls?

Was there a detectable difference between the parent that


lacked a soul and the child who had one?
If the soul can survive the death of the human organism and
retain its full psychological capacities in a disembodied state,
why are ones psychological capacities or states affected at all
by what happens to ones brain?
What happens to the soul of an embryo that divides and is
replaced by two new embryos?
What happens to the soul when the tissues connecting a
persons cerebral hemispheres are surgically severed, creating
two separate centers of consciousness, each capable of
experiences inaccessible to the other?
Jeff McMahan, Killing Embryos for Stem Cell
Research (2007)

Cheshire Cat
Its a friend of mine -a Cheshire Cat, said
Alice: allow me to
introduce it.
The Cat's head
began fading away the
moment he was gone,
and, by the time he
had come back with
the Dutchess, it had
entirely disappeared.
--Lewis Carroll, Alice in
Wonderland

MIND
Non-spatial

BODY

MIND
Non-spatial

BODY
Spatial

MIND
Non-spatial
Non-observable

BODY
Spatial

MIND
Non-spatial
Non-observable

BODY
Spatial
Observable

MIND
Non-spatial
Non-observable
Non-physical

BODY
Spatial
Observable

MIND
Non-spatial
Non-observable
Non-physical

BODY
Spatial
Observable
Physical

MIND
Non-spatial
Non-observable
Non-physical
Private

BODY
Spatial
Observable
Physical

MIND
Non-spatial
Non-observable
Non-physical
Private

BODY
Spatial
Observable
Physical
Public

MIND
Non-spatial
Non-observable
Non-physical
Private
Free

BODY
Spatial
Observable
Physical
Public

MIND
Non-spatial
Non-observable
Non-physical
Private
Free

BODY
Spatial
Observable
Physical
Public
Determined