Mind and Body

Mind and Body

Robert Kirk
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 209
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  • Book Info
    Mind and Body
    Book Description:

    In Mind and Body Robert Kirk offers an introduction to the complex tangle of questions and puzzles roughly labelled the mind-body problem.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8282-8
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. 1 Introduction: are we just machines?
    (pp. 1-28)

    Here is a wind-up toy dog, Snoopy, about as big as my thumb. He stands on two legs, and when I wind him up the clockwork motor makes his legs move and he walks. When he hits an obstacle he sometimes stops, sometimes rocks gently and moves off in a different direction. If you were very simple-minded you might think Snoopydecidedto stop walking, then decided to move off again; and that generally he knew what he was doing. But we know this clockwork toy really has no thoughts or feelings.

    Why are we so confident? Do we know...

  5. 2 Is there something extra?
    (pp. 29-46)

    Many people feel that no machine of any kind could have thoughts or feelings because these activities involve something non-physical. Certainly our brains and sensory systems are immensely complex, even more complex than computers. But we can know all that and still suspect that no quantity of nerve cells and fibres, no amount of electro-chemical impulses from neurone to neurone, no flushings around of chemical neurotransmitters and neuroinhibitors, facilitating and blocking signals across however many billions of synapses, could possibly add up to thoughts or feelings. Imagine smelling freshly roasted coffee or feeling rain on your face or hearing the...

  6. 3 Physicalism
    (pp. 47-74)

    We noticed that the assumption of the closure of the physical — that all physical events are caused physically — is reinforced with every bit of brain research. This assumption rules out Cartesian dualism because it rules out the thought that non-physical events are involved in causing events in the brain or anywhere else. The only varieties of dualism for which it might seem to leave room are epiphenomenalism and parallelism; and we have already noted some difficulties with those positions. Empirical facts about the brain and central nervous system, and about how bodily events are caused, thus provide a powerful motive...

  7. 4 Some objections to physicalism
    (pp. 75-98)

    Thomas Nagel’s paper “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” (1974) shone an uncomfortably bright spotlight on physicalism. Physicalists had failed to engage with the really difficult question: how to explain consciousness. “Without consciousness the mind-body problem would be much less interesting”, he wrote. “With consciousness it seems hopeless.” He suggested that for an organism to have conscious mental states is for there to besomething it is liketo be it. There is something it is like for me as I look at the bricks in the wall; there is nothing it is like to be a brick....

  8. 5 Behaviourism
    (pp. 99-120)

    The challenge is to provide a satisfying account of how a purely physical system can have mental states. Behind that stands the wider challenge of explainingwhat it isto be a subject of mental states. Behaviourism is a tremendously influential approach to meeting those challenges.

    Behaviourism in psychology was a methodological project aimed at making psychology scientific. Attempts in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to do that by basing psychological laws on people’s reports of their experiences had run into the sand, partly because of the difficulty of interpreting the reports. The new idea was that it ought...

  9. 6 Functionalism
    (pp. 121-136)

    Philosophers working on the psycho-physical identity thesis around the middle of the last century were focusing chiefly on consciousness rather than intentionality. As far as beliefs, desires and other intentional states were concerned, they tended to think a behaviouristic account was possible. However, we have seen that merely asserting that conscious experiences are identical with brain processes is not enough. Even if the identities hold, what is it about brain processes that enables them to provide for conscious experience? Somehow it must be made intelligible that things like the activation of neurones should constitute sensations and experiences. When philosophers started...

  10. 7 More about thinking
    (pp. 137-160)

    Romeo loves Juliet. He tells her so. He spends as much time with her as he can, and when he can’t be with her he sends her roses and emails. Naturally he spends a lot of time thinking about her. At the moment he is wondering whether to buy her a ring, although he has no particular ring in mind.

    We have no trouble understanding how Romeo’s roses and emails reach Juliet. But how can histhoughtsget to her? How is it possible for a purely physical organism to have thoughts which reach out into the world, and may...

  11. 8 More about feeling
    (pp. 161-180)

    Romeo still loves Juliet. And although he thinks about her a lot, of course he also has feelings about her. That his feelings should beabouther may by now be a little less puzzling. But what is it for him to have feelings? If intentionality remains a source of perplexity and controversy, so does consciousness.

    Yet there is a significant difference between these components of the mind-body problem. In spite of disputes over which is the best approach to the naturalization of intentionality, it is widely agreed that the approaches examined in Chapter 7 help to demystify it. With...

  12. 9 Conclusion
    (pp. 181-184)

    That ends the main work of this book. I have tried to give you a good idea of the most important problems, theories and arguments enmeshed in the mind—body problem. I have not attempted to mention all the pros and cons of the positions discussed, and I have only touched on, or omitted altogether, a number of topics that are more or less relevant. But one task remains. You may recall that in Introduction I said the main components of the mind-body problem were intentionality, consciousness, their relations, and the relations between physical and psychological explanations. The first two...

  13. Websites
    (pp. 185-186)
  14. References
    (pp. 187-192)
  15. Index
    (pp. 193-200)