Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings

Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings

Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings

Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings

Synopsis

What is the mind? Is consciousness a process in the brain? How do our minds represent the world? Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings is a grand tour of writings on these and other perplexing questions about the nature of the mind. The most comprehensive collection of its kind, the book includes sixty-three selections that range from the classical contributions of Descartes to the leading edge of contemporary debates. Extensive sections cover foundational issues, the nature of consciousness, and the nature of mental content. Three of the selections are published here for the first time, while many other articles have been revised especially for this volume. Each section opens with an introduction by the editor. Philosophy of Mind is suitable for students at all levels and also for general readers.

Excerpt

The articles in this part address foundational questions about the nature of the mind and about the relationship between the mental and the physical. Many of these questions concern the nature of mental states: states such as seeing red, feeling pain, experiencing anger, and desiring happiness. What is the nature of a mental state? And how are mental states related to physical states, such as states of the brain, of one's body and behavior, and of the physical world more generally?

Traditionally, views on these issues can be divided into two main classes. Dualist views hold that the mind is quite distinct from the body and the brain (although they may be associated in some fashion), and/or that mental states are fundamentally distinct from physical states. Materialist views hold that the mind is itself a broadly physical entity, and/or that mental states are derivative on physical states. There also exist idealist views, according to which physical states are derivative on mental states, but these will not be as central here. The papers in this part discuss many varieties of dualist and materialist views, as well as other foundational questions about relation between the mental and the physical.

A. Dualism

Dualist views come in two main varieties. Interactionism holds that the mental and physical are fundamentally distinct but interact in both directions: Physical states affect mental states, and mental states affect physical states. Epiphenomenalism holds that the mental and physical are fundamentally distinct and that physical states affect mental states, but denies that mental states affect physical states.

In the history of philosophy, the most important dualist view is the interactionism of René Descartes. Descartes' most important work is his Meditations on First Philosophy. This is a series of six meditations, the second and sixth of which are reproduced here as chapter 1. In the first meditation, Descartes attempts to cast doubt on all of his beliefs and finds that he cannot be certain that the external world exists. In the second meditation, Descartes finds that there is one thing he can be certain of: his own mind, and thus his own existence (“I think, therefore I am”). He concludes that he is fundamentally “a thing that thinks.” In the third through fifth meditations, Descartes infers the existence of God and uses this to justify his belief in the external world (since God would not deceive him). In the sixth meditation, Descartes reflects on the differences between the mental and the physical and concludes that they are fundamentally distinct. He uses a number of arguments here: One can be certain about the mental but not about the physical; the . . .

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