Brain Damage Mind Damage and Dualism

Brain Damage Mind Damage and Dualism

Part I, covering week 5 readings 3.4, and “Brain Damage, Mind Damage, and Dualism” (uploaded in Canvas files). You must answer all parts.

This is a multi-part question about Cartesian Dualism and Phelan et al.’s objection to it. You must answer ALL parts.

In 3.4, you read about how Descartes argues that the mind and body are different substances that interact with each other. (a.) How does Descartes define mind and body? (b.) Explain one of the arguments that he gives to support the claim that the mind and body are different substances.

In the reading “Brain Damage, Mind Damage, and Dualism” (the uploaded reading), Phelan and his co-authors present the case of Clive Wearing, a man who developed severe amnesia after brain damage. (c.) Explain how Phelan and his co-authors use this case to argue against  Descartes’ dualistic view of the mind-body relationship.

Cases like Clive Wearing’s seem to demonstrate that destroying parts of the brain can destroy core aspects of our selves, like our memories. Phelan et al. point out that this is troubling for anyone who believes that the soul is eternal and persists after death. At the end of the article they state:

“If the dualist has to embrace mind damage, then she must accept that the joy of remembrances of such past events dies with our physical body. And one might ask what good eternal life is for a soul that loses that.”

(d.) Explain the point they are making in this quote, given the context of their argument in the article.

Part II

covering week 6 readings (3.9, 3.10, “Robots and Minds” (uploaded reading in Canvas files section))

Pick ONE of the following and then answer all parts of you chosen question (so you must completely answer all parts of EITHER the question about Churchland OR the question about Lycan)

In 3.10, you read about Paul Churchland’s view of the mind. Churchland argues that, in the future, we will be able to explain everything about humans and human behavior by explaining what is happening in the brain.  He argues that, even though we might think we have mental states (like beliefs and desires) that contribute to our behaviors, we are wrong and such mental states do not actually exist. (1a.) Explain the point he is making with the phlogiston example. Then, (1b). explain why Churchland believes that our common sense understanding of the mind is mistaken and should be replaced with a neuroscientific understanding of the causes of human behavior (you have to explain his argument about what’s wrong with common sense psychology to do this). (1c.) Then, identify a belief that you, or someone you know, held that turned out to falsified by some scientific fact. Do you think that your beliefs about the mind and self could be similarly falsified by scientific facts? Why or why not?

2. One of the consequences of the functionalist view of mind (that mental states are functions) is that any physical system that processes information in a way similar to the way our human minds do can be considered to have a mind. In the uploaded reading “Robots and Minds”, Lycan defends the idea that there is no reason to think that sophisticated Artificial Intelligence wouldn’t have conscious minds like ours (and thus deserve moral consideration). In order to give his argument, Lycan uses two fictional “people”, Harry and Henrietta, as examples. (2a.) Explain why Lycan thinks that denying that Harry has a conscious mind and part of the moral community is unjustified and then (2b). explain how Lycan uses Henrietta to further demonstrate this point.  Two of the things we often associate strongly with human minds (and tend to think robots cannot have) are free will and feelings (qualitative conscious experiences–actually feeling sad rather than just acting sad, for example). (2c). Pick either free will or feelings and explain why Lycan thinks that sophisticated robots could have it.

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Brain Damage Mind Damage and Dualism

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