Philosophy 3 - The Nature of Mind
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It's easy to get lost in the trees of philosophical arguments and lose sight of the forest--the important large-scale positions and the basic reasons for holding those positions. The study questions below are meant to help guide your review of the material and ramp you up to writing a successful essay. Remember that as we cover material in class we are not promoting any one position. Rather, we are looking at positions and considering the arguments for and against them. So, like a good juror listening attentively in a court case, it's important at any given time to keep track of :
(a) What the position under discussion is
(b) What the argument is
(c) Whether the argument is for or against the position
Dualism is the position that mind and matter are different kinds of substances. Describe at least four ways in which mind and matter differ.
Descartes offers three arguments in favor of dualism. The third we can call "The Comparison Argument". Imagine someone says: "I can't compare A with B because I'm aware of A with one part of my mind and B with another part." Descartes believes that this statement doesn't make any sense. Why does Descartes think it doesn’t make sense?
State the premises and conclusion of Descartes' second argument that is based on the premise that one can conceive of the mind and body being separated.
Descartes' famous Cogito Argument is the argument that "I am, I exist" is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived by me. Descartes' first argument for dualism starts from the Cogito. State the premises and conclusion of the argument.
Remember that Descartes' goal is to argue for dualism, the position that mind and body are different kinds of stuff, not just that mind and body are different. Rewrite the conclusion of the argument to state this.
Imagine that you're talking with a friend about Descartes' first argument and you say, "this argument shows that mind and body are different things, but not that they are have to be different kinds of stuff." What examples could you give, using everyday objects (rather than technical terms like "mind" or "matter"), to help your friend understand your point?
Descartes believed that the contents of our minds were more or less open for self-inspection. Is this different from our contemporary view of the mind?
Descartes was one of the first to formulate the law of the conservation of momentum, basically, the law that the total momentum in a collection of objects is unchanging. Do you think that, per dualism, mind-stuff moving body-stuff violates the conservation of momentum?
Did Descartes' dualism offer any benefit to science?