Thursday, January 27, 2011

Identity Theory Approach to Mind-Body Problem

Mind-Body Identity Theory identifies mental states with brain states.  In other words, a mental state is really just a certain electro-chemical signal in the brain.  For example, remembering your first kiss is just a certain signal being passed through a certain neuronal passage.

There are two kinds of Identity Theory.  On the one hand, there is Type-Type Identity Theory.  Type-Type Identity Theory is not about specific mental states and specific brain activity.  Rather, there are kinds or types of mental states that can be identified as kinds or types of brain states.  Token-Token Identity Theory, on the other hand identifies particular examples (known as “tokens“)  of mental states with particular examples of brain states.

Smart identifies and responds to eight different objections to type-type identity theory.

In class, we only covered a couple of these.  Do not worry about the objections that Sven has not talked about!  You will only be expected to know what has been covered in lecture.

1st Objection to Type-Type Identity Theory:  One can understand mental states even if he or she knows nothing about neuroscience.  Smart’s Response:  The behaviorist claim is not that we cannot explain or talk about the experience or mental states in terms other than brain state  Rather, the claim is that when it comes down to what mental states really are, they are just brain states.

5th Objection.  My mental state of pain is throbbing but my neurons firing are not throbbing.  There are properties that my mental state has that the corresponding brain state does not have.  Smart’s Response: The problem here is that when someone says, “My pain is throbbing”, they are actually just talking about a brain state.  In other words, they refer to the brain state.

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