I. Background to Analytic Philosophy
II. Introduction to Armstrong’s piece
- There is often now seen a great schism in Western philosophy, that
between Continental and Analytic philosophy
- We’ve now seen some Continental philosophy in the work of Sartre and
Beauvoir; it is still dominant in France and Germany
- Analytic philosophy, sometimes called Anglo-American philosphy, is
dominant mainly in Britain, Australia and America, although much of roots
are in Germany and Austria
- Founders include Gottlob Frege (1848-1925), Bertrand Russell (1872-1970),
Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) and "The Vienna Circle of Logical Positivists"
- Their work built upon great advances in logic, brought about mostly
by Frege and Russell themselves
- Wanted a thoroughly logical and scientific philosophy
- Very critical of traditional philosophy and metaphysics. Thought of
it as nonsense. (Pick any passage from Sartre to read and you’ll know why.)
- Positivists: Verificationism: anything that can’t be put in
logical form or verified or falsified by scientific methods is just nonsense
- Therefore, much of philosophy will have to go, including most of metaphysics,
- Even ruled out talk of God, souls and the the like as nonsense
- This program was at first very successful. Went on to influence other
disciplines, particularly the social sciences, which then tried to become
more rigorous, logical and verficationist--i.e. behaviorism in the social
- Eventually it ran into a lot of trouble--they discovered that they
couldn’t really translate the claims of science into logical form, and even
that much of science itself was unverifiable
- But the spirit of positivism lives on today, most analytic philosophers
will accept some sorts of metaphysics, but very suspicious of it in general.
Still a focus on being true to science and training in logic, and trying to
be clear and rigorous in logical form.
- Analyzing concepts a big part: how can we make sense of immortality?
God? morality? knowledge? what do these mean? Can we represent them in logical
form or some other more preicse way?
- The good news: our reading does get easier from here on out.
III. "Can the Dualist account for the unity of mind and body?"
- Armstrong is a professor (emeritus) at the University of Sydney, very
important figure in mid- to late 20th century philosophy of mind and metaphysics;
- This work we're reading comes from his A Materialist Theory of
Mind (1968), obviously an attempt to defend materialism
- So far all the authors we've looked at in this class have taken the
mind and body to be very different; Descartes was a traditional dualist,
Berkeley also held the mind to be an immaterial substance (his radical views
were about the nature of the body!), Sartre thought that the mind was not
a substance or thing at all, but a nothingness
- Materialism really hasn't been taken all that serious until the spread
of analytic philosophy, which wants to be very scientific, and science reveals
a certain connection between the brain, neurophysiology, chemicals and what
we think of as mental states
- How do we explain them? The answer given by Armstrong and many others
- We're obviously not reading his whole book. I thought it would be
best if we focused on his criticism of dualism, and afterwards I'll try to
tell you a little about his positive stance on the mind-body issue
- He gives four main objections; first we'll examine them in turn
IV. "How do we numerically differentiate spiritual objects?"
- Here the problem has to do with whether or not dualism, as the theory
that the mind and body are completely different things, can account for the
strong connection and unity we typically think of as existing between them
- Strawson's problem from Individuals: we predicate both physical
and mental properties of the same thing, "I", why should we if they are different
- But this we can get around, analogy to car's engine and chassis
- Still, we do think of there being a very close connection; but it
seems the only connections we have are causal connections and temporal
simultaneity, but are these enough?
- We often think of the mind as being an "inner realm" in the body;
the mind is in the body
- But the dualist can't hold this; the mind is not a part of the body;
it is not in space
- Descartes: more closely related than pilot to vessel, but how can
Descartes even say this? The pilot not only causes what the boat does, the
pilot is in the boat. Pilot seems more closely related.
- Another suggestion: we see ourselves in the middle of our visual field,
but what do we mean by this? Only that the body is a big part of our perceptions,
it is often central.
- Sometimes our sensations seem to be in parts of our bodies; but how
can the dualist make sense of this? The mind cannot be in the foot, it cannot
be in any spatial location
- What does the dualist have left? To posit a unique, irreducible, and
different relationship between the mind and body. Not a causal relationship,
not a relationship of simultaneity, but a completely new and different relationship?
- Armstrong: no logical difficulty in doing this (all he means by this
is that it's not a direct contradiction to suppose this), but it's also entirely
ad hoc. Do we really have any acquaintance with such a relationship?
- If we think of minds as being spiritual objects, then
it must make sense to think of different people as having different spiritual
objects, just as we think of different people as having different bodies
- But in the case of bodies, it is easily understood why two different
bodies are not the same entity; at any given time, they must be at different
- But what makes my mind one entity, and yours another different entity,
rather than one entity between us, or more than two?
- One possibility: they are different because of their past history
- Problem with this: meaningful possibility that two minds could have
had all the same experiences
- Another problem: what differentiated the objects at that time?
- Another suggestion: differentiated by being connected to different
- Problem with this: But it must be possible for minds to exist independent
of any bodies; or else they aren't substances at all. What differentiates
- Aquinas' angels problem. Ad hoc solution.
- Similar problem with identity over time. What makes my mind the same
entity as my mind yesterday, but not the same as yours yesterday?
- Again, all that's left is to postulate some new, totally different
principle of individuation that applies to mental substances.
- Not contradictory to do so. But again, this is completely ad hoc
, we have no acquaintance with any such principle.
V. "Is the Dualist account of the origin of the mind a plausible one?"
VI. "Do the mind and body interact?"
- The problem here is: when does the mind come into being?
- It seems that dualists have to say that in the physiological development
of an organism, at some point at which the neurophysiology gets complicated,
poof, a mind is created
- since the mind is a completely immaterial, non-physical, thing,
this development could not have been predicated by physics or biology
- Armstrong: while it is not strange to say that when the neurophysiology
of an organism gains a certain level of complexity it should gain new properties
or abilities, it does seem strange to say that it might create an entity that
it is not at all like it (completely immaterial) and do so out of nothing
- Another possible solution: say that the mind is not created at that
point, but that a mind has always existed, and just comes to be connected
with a body at some point
- Armstrong: also implausible: no evidence that minds pre-exist bodies
- Another problem: when exactly does this happen? Science seems to tell
us that the development of mental abilities, abilities to sense, feel, think,
etc. are gradual and correlated with the gradual development of the nervous
- But the dualist has to say that there's some particular point at which
the mind enters the picture. But when exactly?
- Doesn't seem to be any way of answering the questions except by simply
stipulating ad hoc that the mind enters the picture at this time. Not
logically contradictory, but seems out of accord with what science tells
- We could ask similar questions about the development of minds over
the course of evolution.
1. There are two Dualist ways of explaining how they interact: Interactionism
2. Problems with interactionism
- Interactionism: the view that motions (in the brain), can cause
mental states, and that mental states can cause motions in the brain;
it's a two way street (the thermostat model)
- Parallelism: the view that brain states are always correlated
with mental states; whenever certain motions happen in my brain, a certain
sort of mental state always occurs in my mind; but the relation is not one
of causal interaction; the motions in the brain can all be explained like
any other motion in the physical world; they are not caused by the mind (the
3. Problems with parallelism
- Unlike some, Armstrong believes that it's possible in principle that
activities in an immaterial substance could cause physical motions, etc.
(All causation is, according to people like Hume, is constant conjunction,
a regularity in nature.)
- But there are empirical, i.e scientific findings that make it implausible
- If a mental state is caused by brain motion, there has to be some
final motion that causes the mental state, and if mental state causes the
brain state, there has to be some final mental state that causes the brain
- Way up, way down problem. Would have to be a gap. There is no such
- Could make his point clearer simply by saying that it doesn't seem
that there are any motions in the brain that are caused by something other
than ordinary physical causes; nor do there seem to be motions in the brain
that have as their function anything else than causing other motions in the
- On an interactionism view, there would have to be some place or places
in the brain where this interaction takes place, as Descartes thought about
the pineal gland. The doesn't seem to be any.
VII. Conclusion with regard to dualism
- have to deny, implausibly, that pain makes me wring my hand
- mind is "nomological dangler"; can explain everything there is to
explain without it
- mind does not really interact with body and behavior at all; mental
states not the "real" causes of behavior
- but perhaps they can still explain ordinary language usage; constant
conjunction makes it seem natural to talk that way
VIII. Armstrong's Materialism
- Dualism not logically contradictory, but necessitates taking some
ad hoc steps, and claiming some things that are hard to defend given the
way science seems to go
- Can we do better? From what we learned we should look for a theory
- (i) allow for the logical possibility of disembodied existence, (ii)
treat mental happenings as things incapable of independent existence, (iii)
account for unity of mind and body, (iv) provide a principle for the individuation
of minds, (v) it should not be scientifically implausible, (vi) it should
allow for causal interaction of mind and body
- Armstrong believes that the mind simply is nothing more than a set
of events taking place in the physical brain
- But is that compatible with his criteria? if the mind simply is the
brain, how can he explain the logical possibility of disembodied existence?
- His answer: the mind is the brain but not necessarily so, because
the actual definition of the mind is the thing, whatever it is,
that is the cause of certain forms of behavior (e.g. pain, as a mental
state, is whatever it happens to be that causes the hand wringing, my desire
to eat an ice cream cone is whatever it is that causes me to run after the
- This thing, this "whatever it is" happens in our case to be
the physical brain, but is not necessarily so
- It's logically conceivable that the mind might not be the same as
the brain; that minds might exist without brains, but as it turns out, they're
the same thing
- Just like it's logically conceivable that "the first postmaster general
of the U.S." and "the inventor of Bifocals" might be different people, but
as it turns out, they're not
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