Mind, Brain, Monism, Dualism
Michael Egnor on Behaviorism said...
"The Battle for Your Mind" at Evolution News and Views (Oct 29 2008).
Having convinced only a small fraction of Americans that chance and tautology — i.e. Darwinism — adequately explains life (despite a court-ordered monopoly on public education for the last half-century), materialists are moving on to your mind. Materialism posits that your mind is meat. No soul, no spirit, just chemicals, congealed by natural selection to dupe you into believing that you’re more than an evanescent meat-robot. It’s a hard sell, but that’s not to say that materialists haven’t tried. In the first half of the 20th century, behaviorists proposed that internal mental states were irrelevant or didn’t exist at all. All that mattered in the study of the mind was stimulus and response. Behaviorism turned out, unsurprisingly, to be a sterile avenue of research, as one might guess about a theory of the mind that denied or ignored mental states. As a theory of the mind, it is now largely regarded as insane, even by materialists. Behaviorism may be the only scientific theory to be finally extinguished by a joke: After a night of passion, one behaviorist rolls over in bed and says to the other: "that was good for you; how was it for me?"
"Consciousness and the Quantum Worlds: Putting Qualia On the Map" in Consciousness: New Philosophical Perspectives, Quentin Smith and Aleksandar Jokric, eds. (Oxford: 2003), p. 447.
Let me begin by nailing my colours to the mast. I count myself a materialist, in the sense that I take consciousness to be a species of brain activity. Having said that, however, it seems to me evident that no description of brain activity of the relevant kind, couched in the currently available languages of physics, physiology, or functional or computational roles, is remotely capable of capturing what is distinctive about consciousness. So glaring, indeed, are the shortcomings of all the reductive programmes currently on offer, that I cannot believe that anyone with a philosophical training, looking dispassionately at these programmes, would take any of them seriously for a moment, were it not for a deep-seated conviction that current physical science has essentially got reality taped, and accordingly, something along the lines of what the reductionists are offering must be correct. To that extent, the very existence of consciousness seems to me to be a standing demonstration of the explanatory limitations of contemporary physical science. On the assumption that some form of materialism is nevertheless true, we have only to introspect in order to recognize that our present understanding of matter is itself radically deficient. Consciousness remains for us, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, what it was for Newton at the dawn of the eighteenth century: an occult power that lies beyond the pool of illumination that physical theory casts on the world we inhabit.
Tragic Sense of Life, trans. J.E. Crawford Flitch (Dover: 1954), orig. 1921, pp 9-10, 11.
To propose to a man that he should be someone else, that he should become someone else, is to propose to him that he should cease to be himself. Everyone defends his own personality, and only consents to a change in his mode of thinking or of feeling in so far as this change is able to enter into the unity of his spirit and become involved in its continuity; in so far as this change can harmonize and integrate itself with all the rest of his mode of being, thinking and feeling, and can at the the same time knit itself with his memories. Neither of a man nor of a people — which is, in a certain sense, also a man — can a change be demanded which breaks the unity and continuity of the person. A man can change greatly, almost completely even, but the change must take place within his continuity. ... Because for me the becoming other than I am, the breaking of the unity and continuity of my life, is to cease to be he who I am — that is to say, it is simply to cease to be. And that — no! Anything rather than that!
Jaegwon Kim (MIT Press: Jan 2000), 156 pages.
This book, based on Jaegwon Kim's 1996 Townsend Lectures, presents the philosopher's current views on a variety of issues in the metaphysics of the mind — in particular, the mind-body problem, mental causation, and reductionism. Kim construes the mind-body problem as that of finding a place for the mind in a world that is fundamentally physical. Among other points, he redefines the roles of supervenience and emergence in the discussion of the mind-body problem. Arguing that various contemporary accounts of mental causation are inadequate, he offers his own partially reductionist solution on the basis of a novel model of reduction. Retaining the informal tone of the lecture format, the book is clear yet sophisticated. ~ Product Description • "Mr. Kim has long been a lone voice against the dominant functionalist orthodoxy, but the tide now seems to be turning in his favor. In this book he elegantly cuts through the baroque structure of recent philosophical debate, and displays the flaws common to the various sophisticated alternatives." ~ The Economist
Richard Swinburne (Oxford University Press: Mar 1, 2013), 288 pages.
Mind, Brain, and Free Will presents a powerful new case for substance dualism (the idea that humans consist of two parts--body and soul) and for libertarian free will (that humans have some freedom to choose between alternatives, independently of the causes which influence them). Richard Swinburne argues that answers to questions about mind, body, and free will depend crucially on the answers to more general philosophical questions. He begins by analyzing the criteria for one event being the same as another, one substance being the same as another, and a state of affairs being metaphysically possible; and then goes on to analyze the criteria for a belief about these issues being justified. Pure mental events (including conscious events) are distinct from physical events and interact with them. Swinburne claims that no result from neuroscience or any other science could show that interaction does not take place; and illustrates this claim by showing that recent scientific work (such as Libet's experiments) has no tendency whatever to show that our intentions do not cause brain events. He goes on to argue for agent causation, and claims that — to speak precisely — it is we, and not our intentions, that cause our brain events. It is metaphysically possible that each of us could acquire a new brain or continue to exist without a brain; and so we are essentially souls. Brain events and conscious events are so different from each other that it would not be possible to establish a scientific theory which would predict what each of us would do in situations of moral conflict. Hence given a crucial epistemological principle (the Principle of Credulity) we should believe that things are as they seem to be: that we make choices independently of the causes which influence us. According to Swinburne's lucid and ambitious account, it follows that we are morally responsible for our actions.