Notes on Rachels, PFP, chapter 6

(Ted Stolze)
Notes on James Rachels,
Problems from Philosophy
Chapter Six: Body and
Two Positions on
the Mind/Body Problem
René Descartes
Descartes was an important 17th
century thinker whose ideas have
had a great influence down to the
present day. He been called the
“father of modern philosophy (and of
mathematics). ” Perhaps his most
famous philosophical work is called
the Meditations on First Philosophy
Cartesian Dualism
Body and mind are different substances, and mental
states have the following two distinctive
(1) Privileged access
(2) Infallibility
Descartes on Minds and Machines
“It is indeed conceivable that a machine could be made
so that it could utter words, and even words appropriate
to the presence of physical acts or objects which cause
some change in its organs; as, for example, if it was
touched in some spot that it would ask what you wanted
to say to it; if in another, that it would cry that it was hurt,
and so on for similar things. But it could never modify
its phrases to reply to the sense of whatever was said in
its presence as even the most stupid men do.”
(From Discourse on Method, translated by Laurence J.
Lafleur [Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1960 (1637)],
pp. 41-42.)
Princess Elizabeth of Bohemia’s
Objection to Descartes
How could a non physical
mind interact with a
physical body, and vice
Descartes’s Responses to Elizabeth
It’s too difficult to explain, so don’t worry about it!
The pineal gland is where the mind interacts with the body: “The
soul has its principal seat in the little gland in the middle of the
brain, whence it radiates into all the rest of the body by the
mediation of the spirits, nerves, and even blood, which,
participating in the impressions of the spirits, can carry them
through the arteries into all the members” (from The Passions of
the Soul, 34, translated by Stephen H. Voss [Indianapolis, IN:
Hackett, 1989], p. 37). NOTE: For Descartes the mind is
connected to the entire body.
Another Objection to
Cartesian Dualism
The problem of the radical emergence of mind from
matter during the evolution of life on earth (pp. 70-1)
Three Kinds of Materialism
Mind-Brain Identity
Human thoughts and feelings can be explained purely in
terms of observable behavior: “When someone shouts at
us, we say it is because she is angry; when someone
grabs a sandwich, we say it is because he is hungry” (p.
Support for Behaviorism
Cross-cultural comparison of facial expression of
emotions (see Paul Ekman, Emotions Revealed, revised
edition [NY: Owl Books, 2007] and Daniel Goleman,
Social Intelligence [NY: Bantam, 2006].) Consider the
next two illustrations from Goleman’s book (pp. 39, 87).
Identify the Emotion Expressed Below
Objections to Behaviorism
The theory only makes sense of simple behaviors such as
universal emotions--but how do you look when, for example, you
are listening to a CD or watching a baseball game?
It is possible to control external behavior, for example, by
presenting a “poker face.”
We need to distinguish between the external emotion and the
internal feeling (see Antonio Damasio, Looking for Spinoza: Joy,
Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain [NY: Harcourt Trade, 2003].)
Mind-Brain Identity
Mental events are neurological. “Each of a person’s mental
states is identical with the firing of particular neurons, or
cells, in the brain” (p. 75).
Type/Token Distinction
Ex: $20 is a type; the crumpled, old twenty dollar bill in
my pocket and the crisp, new twenty dollar bill in your
pocket are tokens of that type.
Two Theses
regarding Mind-Brain Identity Theory
Type-type identity = “being in pain (considered as a
type of thing) is identical with a particular sort of
neuron firing (considered as a type of thing)” (p. 76).
Token-token identity = “each instance of pain is
identical with some particular physical state” (p. 76).
Two Objections to Type-Type Identity
(but not Token-Token Identity)
Pain comes in many forms
Life-form with a different physiology
“…[B]eing in pain is identical with the activation of a system that serves
this function--that links these kinds of inputs, outputs, and relations to
other internal states. For you, therefore, a particular token of pain may
be a neural firing, while for an extraterrestrial a particular token of pain
may be the activation of a different internal mechanism. The physical
character of the mechanism doesn’t matter. All that matters is that the
mechanism serves the appropriate function” (p. 78).
Problems with Materialism
Can’t account well for subjectivity (thought experiment
about the scientist Mary)
Can’t account well for intentionality
Can’t account well for mystical experiences
The mind is “wider” than the brain
Other Examples of Intentionality
Love for a particular individual; and the associated problems of
maternal separation and bereavement (see Bruce E. Wexler,
Brain and Culture: Neurobiology, Ideology, and Social Change
[Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006].
Hunger for actual food as opposed to the idea of food
Steven Rose on
“Having a Brain, Being a Mind”
“. . . [B]rains are not merely in bodies. The individual organism, the person, is in the world. Brains
and bodies are open, not closed systems, in continuous interaction with the external material,
biological and social worlds. It is this which explains why . . . I want to argue that the mind is
wider than the brain. . . . Thus, to say that brain enables consciousness is not to make a crude
split between the neurological and the psychological, the biological and the social, or to separate,
if that were possible, the phenomenon of consciousness from the content of consciousness.
There can be no consciousness without content; indeed it is constituted by its content, and its
content is not merely of the moment but of all past moments in he history of the individual. It is
thus an emergent property, not to be dichotomised, indissolubly historically located. It exists in
sets of relationships, between the person and the surrounding world, irreducible to mere neural
mechanism but not a mysterious ghost in the machine either.” (Steven Rose, The Future of the
Brain: The Promise and Perils of Tomorrow’s Neuroscience [NY: Oxford, 2005, pp. 165-167).
[See also Lise Eliot, What’s Going on in There?: How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First
Five Years of Life (NY: Bantam, 2000).]
Brain, Organism, and World:
Steven Rose’s Ecological Materialism

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