Philosophy of Mind: Contemporary Readings

By Timothy O'Connor; David Robb | Go to book overview

6

J.J.C. Smart, "Sensations and Brain Processes"

This paper 1 takes its departure from arguments to be found in U.T. Place's "Is Consciousness a Brain Process?" 2 I have had the benefit of discussing Place's thesis in a good many universities in the United States and Australia, and I hope that the present paper answers objections to his thesis which Place has not considered and that it presents his thesis in a more nearly unobjectionable form. This paper is meant also to supplement the paper "The 'Mental' and the 'Physical,'" by H. Feigl, 3 which in part argues for a similar thesis to Place's.

Suppose that I report that I have at this moment a roundish, blurry-edged after-image which is yellowish towards its edge and is orange towards its center. What is it that I am reporting? One answer to this question might be that I am not reporting anything, that when I say that it looks to me as though there is a roundish yellowy-orange patch of light on the wall I am expressing some sort of temptation, the temptation to say that there is a roundish yellowy-orange patch on the wall (though I may know that there is not such a patch on the wall). This is perhaps Wittgenstein's view in the Philosophical Investigations (see § § 367, 370). Similarly, when I "report" a pain, I am not really reporting anything (or, if you like, I am reporting in a queer sense of "reporting"), but am doing a sophisticated sort of wince. (See § 244: "The verbal expression of pain replaces crying and does not describe it." Nor does it describe anything else?). 4 I prefer most of the time to discuss an after-image rather than a pain, because the word "pain" brings in something which is irrelevant to my purpose: the notion of "distress." I think that "he is in pain" entails "he is in distress," that is, that he is in a certain agitation-condition. 5 Similarly, to say "I am in pain" may be to do more than "replace pain behavior": it may be partly to report something,

J.J.C. Smart, "Sensations and Brain Processes," in V.C. Chappell (ed.) The Philosophy of Mind (Dover Publications, New York, 1981), pp. 160-72.

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