Historical Introduction to Philosophy/Theories of Mind
Theories of Mind
What is the relationship between the mind and the body? Of what type of substance is the mind? Of what type is the body? These are the type of questions that philosophers of the mind ask.
The two main schools of thought that deal with the mind-body problem and theories of mind are Monism and Dualism.
Monism holds that there is only one type of substance, while Dualism holds that the mind and body are of different substances.
Monism is the view that all of reality is comprised of one type of 'substance'. The roots of the monist perspective can be traced back to Parmenides (515-445 BC). For Parmenides there was only one “thing”, existence, and thus all plurality was false. The three main branches of monism are materialism, idealism, and neutral monism/dual-aspect monism. George Berkeley believes that any object falls into one of two categories, either spiritual or idea. He believes that for anything to be spiritual then it has to be active, conscious, and in motion, whereas ideas are inert and passive. He also believes that ideas or sense objects don't exist on their own and that they have to be perceived and supported to be real. Also it is hard or impossible to define a hedge meaning. For example trying to explain how comfortable a chair is, or pointing to a general area of a floor and telling somebody to stand there. As well taking complex speech and trying to take the simple meaning of a statement.
George Berkeley believes that two things can not be compared. That basically ideas are in the mind, so physically objects become ideas so there is no way to compare two ideas. As well abstract ideas like colors or taste can not be compared since each person see or taste different ways. As well George Berkeley believes that objects, or abstract ideas are only ideas in the mind. As well only two perceived ideas could be compared but that two or more ideas can't be hypthosed to be compared.
George Berkely believes that Anti-abstractionism works in conjuction with the Likeness Principle. That we can not strip the particular qualities from the idea to form new instrinic general ideas. Also that we can not create objective abstract ideas.
Materialism has its beginning in the early atomic viewpoints of Leucippus (5th century BC) and Democratis (460 BC), and it has been championed more recently by the likes of Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679 AD) and Pierre Gassendi (1592-1655). Materialism holds that the only thing that truly “exists” is matter and all phenomena are the result of material interactions. All mental phenomena can be reduced to physical interactions. With the modern success of scientific theories such as quantum theory materialism is probably the most popular monist theory.
George Berkeley believes that only ideas exist. That everything we know only exists as ideas, even god only exists as an idea. That the world doesn't exist as atoms, but as things like poetry, spirits, dreams, etc. As well he believes that secondary qualities like, taste, smell, etc. are perceived along with the sensation. For example if a grape is sour, the sour taste is perceived at the same time as eating the grape. Basically George Berkeley believes that there are no physical objects. That our senses gives us the information to perceive the idea. For example our senses gives us the information to perceive when someone comes in the room, what a piece of food tastes like, etc.
Some philosophers have argued that language is intimately connected with mind, and that mind can be discovered through careful study of language. Gottfried Leibniz () was among these philosophers. He thought that carefully study of language was the best way to understand the mind. Leibniz thought language represented the mind, but that existing languages clouded human reason simply because they did not represent human thoughts as clearly and unambiguously as they could. He worked on a plan for a universal language that would more perfectly reflect thoughts. This language was to include symbols that represent mental constructs, and logical rules for working with the symbols.
Leibniz's language would perfectly perfectly reflect the human mind! This was possible, he argued, because all thoughts that go through the human mind could be broken down into simple concepts that could not be broken down further. These indivisible ideas would be represented by the symbols of his universal language. A carefully formulated set of rules for combining these symbols would produce a language that would perfectly reflect human reasoning, without the ambiguities that exist in other languages.
Leibniz envisioned people using the universal language to easily resolve disagreements. Both parties would establish the fundamental ideas behind their arguments, express them in symbols, then do some calculations to see if they used valid rules for manipulating the symbols. No one would be able to disagree after discovering who used valid rules for manipulating the simple concepts they worked with to reach their conclusions.
Leibniz agreed with Thomas Hobbes’ belief that all human thoughts are computational. He was not a materialist like Hobbes, but he believed the human mind works much like a machine, using logical rules to work with simple concepts.
Dual-aspect Theory and Neutral Monism
Neutral monism is the view that all of reality is of one kind, neither mental nor physical. Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677 AD) held the dual-aspect theory which says that the mental and physical are distinct modes of a single substance, God. Neutral monism is, in a way, an agreement with both materialist monism and idealist monism.
George Berkeley believes that the brain as an object and the brain as a concept are not seperate. That basically the brain isn't an organ like an arm or leg. Or that the mind holds the object of cognitive.
Idealism is the view that everything is mental in nature, that is, that everything which exists is mental. One famous idealist was George Berkeley (1685–1753 AD), who claimed that “to be is to be perceived”, thought that both mental and physical phenomena are just perceptions in the mind of God.
George Berkeley belives that objects don't exist until someone perceives the object. As well he believes that objects are just ideas. Basically his logic is (1) we perceive objects like flowers, rivers or whatever, (2) we only perceive ideas, there for objects are just ideas. For example the philosophy book isn't really there until someone looks at or thinks about the book. As well Berkely believes that things that we don't know about or can't conceive doesn't really exist, or that the only things that exists are things that we can perceive or conceive.
Dualism is the view that there are two distinct kinds of existence, the mental and the physical.
The first truly dualistic theory originated in Plato’s theory of forms.
Rene'Descartes Descartes (1596-1650 AD) believed that the mind is distinct from the body. In this view the essense of the physical is extension in space. Minds are unextended substances and thus are distinct from any physical substances. The essence of a mental substance is to think.
George Berkeley believed that there is no real world. That the world exists in our mind and perceptions. That what we expierence is our sensations. As well Berkeley believes that humans don't have free will, that God puts all our sensations in our mind,
Both Malebranche (1638-1715 AD) and Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716 AD) both espoused views of parallelism, the view that the physical and mental realms run parallel to each other but that there is no causation between the two. Malebranche's version of parallelism is called occasionalism. This is the view that at each moment God creates the world anew in such a way that it seems as if causation exists. Leibniz's view is called preestablished harmony and it claims that mental and physical phenomena seem to be causaly related because they co-occur in the posible world God actualized (this one) much like two synchronized watches. Because of obvious difficulties parallelism has been mostly abandoned.
George Berkeley (1685-1753 AD) believed that our mind percieves the characteristics of an object. For example we perceive the distance to an object, or the objects and magnitude. Basically everything that we perceive is based on our judgement and not on our senses. As well we can not perceive another person's idea by itself. But that we can perveive the idea by the physical responses the idea produces. For example if the other person's idea causes their eyes to diolate or their face to turn red.
Other Dualistic Theories
There are many other dualistic theories but they are far too complex for the limitations of this course. If you wish to learn about them, visit http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/dualism/.
George Berkeley believes as well that humans don't have free will. He believes in Determinism, that everyone's choices are controlled by God telephatically George Berkeley's Cognitive Theory. George Berkeley believes that sensory perceptions brings up certain ideas and perceptions depending on which sensory organ is used. Also each sense is separate and distinct from each other and are innate. As well our experience is postulated through our experience. As well the only access to reality that we have is through our ideas.
George Berkeley and Direct Realism. George Berkeley believes that things do not actually exist. For a desk or a chair to exist a person has to be perceiving the object. Also any information that comes through our senses are just ideas. So any object are just ideas within us.
George Berkeley argument against skepticism is relatively simple. Berkeley believes that there is no out there or that there is no real world. That we can can't go outside ourselves to perceive the real world, so all we have is our ideas. Basically that all primary and secondary qualities are ideas that we perceive. Basically trying to get outside ourselves to perceive objects would lead to skepticism.
George Berkeley believes that with language is a conventional language. That our mind uses arbitrary signs which makes us perceive actual or tactical experiences or reality. And people through habit conjoin ideas or through the arbitrary signs form language through the will of a Universal Mind.
George Berkeley doesn't believe in physical causation. Since all there are no physical objects then there are no objects to cause the idea in our head. That perceptions are based upon the observer, or how the observer perceives primary and secondary qualities of an object. He believes in mental causation though, that our ideas is the basis for causation.
George Berkeley uses Occam's Razor as well. Occam's razor basically says that "Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate" or "plurality should not be posited without necessity." The words are those of the medieval English philosopher and Franciscan monk William of Ockham (ca. 1285-1349). Berkeley uses it to justify to eliminate material substances, or that people only need their ideas and mind to explain everything.
If you haven't read 'Phaedo' by Plato in the previous section then do so now, it can be found here Phaedo
Read Descartes' 'Meditations on First Philosophy' Meditation 2, which can be found here http://www.wright.edu/cola/descartes/meditation2.html
Read Parmenides: Fragments which can be found here http://philoctetes.free.fr/parmenides.pdf
Read 'A Treatise Concerning Human Knowledge' by George Berkeley, which can be found here http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/4723
Now, think about what it is about the human condition that makes it so difficult to completely characterize our experiences. This is no easy task...
Audi, Robert. "Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy" 2nd Edition, Cambridge University Press 1995, 99
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy http://plato.stanford.edu/
Kolak, David and Thomson Garret. The Longman Standard History of Philosophy. Pearson Education Inc: New York, 2006.