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The Mind Body "Problem"

Updated on December 12, 2010

The Mind Body Problem

  1. Dualism fails to account for mental causation but says the mental events can cause the physical events.
  2. Only Physical events can cause physical events.
  3. Therefore, Philosophers set out to find physical evidence in the field of psychology avoiding Dualism as it is false (1,2)
  4. Radical Behaviorism says that one’s behavior does not have mental causes. People are only a product of several stimuli that require appropriate responses.
  5. People make hundreds of choices in a day which suggest a dependency of mental causes.
  6. Therefore, Philosophers moved on from Dualism and Radical Behaviorism as they were both false. (3, 4, 5)
  7. Logical Behaviorism relies on mental ascriptions to define our behaviors.
  8. Mental ascriptions cannot always be tied directly to behaviorism.
  9. Therefore, Philosophers have moved on from Dualism and Radical Behaviorism as well as Logical Behaviorism as it was a semantic form of Radical Behaviorism and therefore false. (3, 6, 7, 8)
  10. CentralState Identity Theory says that mental events are equivalent to the physical aspects of the correlating neurophysical events allowing mental causes to cause more mental causes.
  11. Behavioral events also correspond with the neurophysical as token physicalism and type physicalism used to describe experiences from specific sources and experiences from no particular source. In this same way of generalization, Central Identity Theory believes that any system based on stimuli and response can have such feelings as headaches.
  12. Therefore, Central Identity Theory is too general when speaking of type physicalism and must be false along with Dualism, Radical Behaviorism, and Logical Behaviorism. (3, 6, 9, 10, 11)
  13. Functionalism is the combination of aspects from Central Identity Theory and Logical Behaviorism believed to be accurate.
  14. Functionalism emphasizes the importance of the difference between hardware and software in respects to the human mind and also emphasizes casual role as well as the possibility of mental causation being a species of physical causation.
  15. Therefore, Functionalism is the closest answer we have to the mind-body problem as it absorbs what we see as accurate approaches from other theories without having to absorb why they are inaccurate. It is not the complete answer, just the closest we have come to a complete answer. (3, 6, 9, 12, 13, 14)

            There are many ways to approach the mind-body problem but no method can be said to completely solve this “problem”, nor is there solid evidence to attest that any aspect of this dilemma can be tied to non-physical properties. To Jerry A. Fodor the most accurate approach is the idea of functionalism but even this is in some areas flawed. We do not have a direct answer as to how our minds interact with themselves and we may never but in this paper I will evaluate each response to the mind-body problem in order to clearly view how we got to this idea of functionalism and why it is not a complete answer.

            The first theory to define the mind-body problem was Dualism and it cast the biggest shadow of doubt. Dualism relied on a co-existence of physical and non-physical entities of the mind to describe how they interacted with the body without ever acknowledging mental causation. It also supported the inaccurate assumption that non-physical events can be held responsible for causing events of the physical kind. With this disbelief continually growing with each evaluation, psychologists and philosophers alike have left the idea of dualism in hope to find a correlation between two physical entities.

            The next theory of approach came from John B. Watson of JohnHopkinsUniversity who made the suggestion that behaviorisms have no correlation with mental causes. Watson saw every action an organism made as, simply enough, the most appropriate response to the stimuli at hand. Thankfully I read on to find that Fodor expressed the same views of disparagement as myself therefore, I moved on to evaluate the other side of the behaviorist’s coin, Logical Behaviorism.

            Logical Behaviorism set out to define mental terms by the use of mental ascriptions. One can remember this theory also as the theory of the magic “if”. Logical Behaviorism asserts that if one has a goal in mind and if said goal is attainable then it will be carried out by the necessary physical events. The example given to me by Fodor to give light to the magic “if” is that if Smith was thirsty and there was water available at the given time and place then Smith would drink the water. Being able to identify one’s needs is essential for the Logical Behaviorist. Unfortunately it is known that the human mind is much more complex than this. We as creatures share intellect and are more than just our needs, requirements, desires, etc. Not every mental ascription can be tied by behaviorism alone. Upon further inspection of Logical Behaviorism one will find that it is merely a semantic form of Radical Behaviorism.

            CentralState Identity Theory was later established with the breakthrough in neurological sciences. It claims that all mental events, states, experiences, etc. are all equivalent to the corresponding neurophysical events that can be observed in the brain. This idea of mental causes having some sort of physical, electric aspect allowed for the assumption that mental causations can lead to cause other mental causations just as one does when following a train of thought. Most importantly was the corresponding between behavioral events and the neurophysical. The evaluation of this subject soon gave rise to the ideas of token and type physicalism. Token physicalism refers to a specific experience from a specific source. Type physicalism refers to a specific experience from no specific source. Fodor gives us the example from his text that token physicalism would be John’s headache or Bill’s fear of animals while an example of type physicalism would look something more like having a headache or being afraid of animals.

            There are qualities of logical behaviorism as well as central state identity theory that seem plausible and were adopted by a new theory which, to Fodor and myself, seems to be the most accurate theory at the time. Functionalism adopted the Identity theorist’s casual character of interaction between the mind and the brain whilst also adopting the logical behaviorist’s concept of relational characteristics of mental properties. Functionalism went on to stress that the difference between a computer’s hardware and software are simply a reflection of something we had yet to define going on in our own minds. With this, the idea of casual role was formed along with the suspicion that mental causation may very well be just a different species of physical causation. However, Functionalism, like type physicalism, paints on too broad of a canvas. This is proven with the turing of machines. Functionalism defines a person, a room full of people, a software running computer, and a disembodied spirits all as turing machines. Functionalism also holds the downfall of qualitative content. Qualitative content, in short, is a shift in experience. It is hard to define as it must be experienced. A difference in qualitative content, Fodor says, suggests a difference in mental states for which functionalism makes no note of.

            In opposition of qualitative content, functionalism throws much more lethal blows in the ring of intentional content. Intentional content is based on three basic concepts: Proposition, truth, and differentially. It also accounts for intentionality of symbolism by use of language and the resemblance theory in which your brain uses memory to identify and visualize. However, there can be no computation without representation.

             Therefore, Functionalism is the closest answer we have to the mind-body problem as it reiterates what we see as accurate approaches from other theories without having to absorb why they are inaccurate. It is not the complete answer, just the closest we have come to a complete answer.


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