Brandeis University, Philosophy Department
Fall 2003
Brandeis University Web Stite

The Mind-Body
Problem

Professor Andreas Teuber
Prof. Teuber


The Mind-Body Problem

1. Simple Form: "What is the relation between the mental and the physical?

2. Alternative Forms: "How can something that is physical through and through think?" or . . .

3. "How can something that is mental, such as a belief or a desire cause something physical to happen?"

  • Causal connection: Throwing a light switch causes the light to go on
  • The cross-over Problem: How can causality "cross-over" from the mental to the physical and vice versa?

Cartesian Dualism (Descartes 1596-1650)

1. Descartes believed that the mind and the body were two distinct substances, yet he acknowledged that they could and did interact.

2. Descartes' argument from doubt outlined in The Discourse on Method (1637) and Meditations (1640)

3. Mind and Body

Descartes believed he could doubt one but not the other. Consider the following:
  • I have a mind.
  • I have a body.
  • I cannot doubt that I have a mind.
  • I can doubt that I have a body.
  • Therefore, my mind has a property, the property of indubitable existence that my body does not
  • Hence my mind is distinct from my body.

4. But now consider the following:

Lois Lane wants to marry Superman.
  • Lois Lane does not want to marry the most incompetent reporter on The Daily Planet.
  • Lois Lane believes Superman and the most incompetent reporter on The Daily Planet are different people.
  • Lois Lane can believe she could marry Superman, but she cannot believe that she would ever marry Clark Kent.
  • Superman has the property as far as Lois Lane is concerned of "possible marriage partner"; whereas Clark Kent does not have this property.
  • Therefore Clark Kent and Superman are two distinct persons.
  • But Superman and the most incompetent reporter on The Daily Planet (Clark Kent) are not different people.
  • If Lois Lane marries Superman, she marries Clark Kent and vice versa.

5. What's wrong with Descartes' argument?

i. Propositional Attitudes v. Attributes.
ii. Sense v. Reference.

6. Descartes' Argument from the properties of division and extension.

7. The Mind-Brain Identity Theory as a Possible Objection.
  • Lightning is one and the same thing as a kind of electrical charge.
  • Water = H2O
  • Vitalism and elan vital. What is life?

 

 


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