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Philosophy of Mind: Part 2, The Mind-Body Problem

By Frank Simons

The Meditation Center presents the 24-part Great Courses series, Philosophy of Mind: Part 2,

The Mind-Body Problem, at 5:30pm, Thursday, June 15, at the Center, Callejon Blanco 4.

Video Presentation
Philosophy of Mind: Part 2, The Mind-Body Problem
Thu, Jun 15, 5:30pm
Meditation Center, Callejon Blanco 4
Free, donations accepted

This lecture confronts the mind-body problem head-on in terms of a position called Dualism. Professor Grim starts with five “obvious philosophical facts” or, at least, what seem to be: these are things that just about everyone believes. You have a mind and a body; these normally work together; your body is physical and thus, publicly observable; your mental life is essentially private, therefore; you have privileged access to the contents of your own mind. The simplest explanation for these “facts” is Dualism, as developed by Descartes. But there is a problem. In this Cartesian model, physical things exist in physical space. The mental does not. How can they react?

The central problem will appear in a philosophical, a psychological, a neuro-scientific, and a computer science guise. If the obvious philosophical facts are true, what must the universe be like? The simplest theory is Cartesian Dualism, according to which the universe is divided into two distinct radically different halves. The physical realm contains all those things made of matter, which occupy space and are governed by laws of physics. The mental realm contains those things that are essentially mental: hopes, emotions, imaginings, and consciousness. This led to Arnaud’s conclusions that your mind is in no way the same thing as your body or any part of your body; what is essential to you is not your body but your mind.

Dualism has a central problem. If the two realms were entirely distinct, it would seem that nothing mental could cause anything physical, and nothing physical could cause anything mental. We know the mental does affect the physical; our desires result in physical behavior. We know the physical does affect the mental; physical events in the world affect our beliefs and feelings. The “completely separate realms” view must be wrong. Can there be a way out of this dilemma? Here is a suggestive analogy:

Your fist is not identical to your hand. You can make a fist and then open your hand. Your fist has ceased to exist, but your hand has not. Yet there is a sense in which your fist isn’t something extra. To make a fist is just to put your hand in a particular position.

Professor Patrick Grim, as Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, has provided his students with invaluable insights into issues of philosophy, artificial intelligence, theoretical biology, and other fields. Professor Grim was awarded the university’s Presidential and Chancellor’s awards for teaching excellence and was elected to the Academy of Teachers and Scholars.

There will be an opportunity for discussion following the video.

Presentations of the Center are offered without charge. Donations are gratefully accepted.

 

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