In philosophy of mind, Cartesian materialism is the idea that at some place (or places) in the brain, there is some set of information that directly corresponds to our conscious experience. Contrary to its name, Cartesian materialism is not a view that was held by or formulated by René Descartes, who subscribed rather to a form of substance dualism.
Philosophy of mind is a branch of philosophy that studies the ontology, nature, and relationship of the mind to the body. The mind–body problem is a paradigm issue in philosophy of mind, although other issues are addressed, such as the hard problem of consciousness, and the nature of particular mental states. Aspects of the mind that are studied include mental events, mental functions, mental properties, consciousness, the ontology of the mind, the nature of thought, and the relationship of the mind to the body.
René Descartes was a French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist. A native of the Kingdom of France, he spent about 20 years (1629–1649) of his life in the Dutch Republic after serving for a while in the Dutch States Army of Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange and the Stadtholder of the United Provinces. He is generally considered one of the most notable intellectual figures of the Dutch Golden Age.
In its simplest version, Cartesian materialism might predict, for example, that there is a specific place in the brain which would be a coherent representation of everything we are consciously experiencing in a given moment: what we're seeing, what we're hearing, what we're smelling, and indeed, everything of which we are consciously aware. In essence, Cartesian materialism claims that, somewhere in our brain, there is a Cartesian theater where a hypothetical observer could somehow "find" the content of conscious experience moment by moment. In contrast, anything occurring outside of this "privileged neural media" is nonconscious.
"Cartesian theater" is a derisive term coined by philosopher and cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett to refer pointedly to a defining aspect of what he calls Cartesian materialism, which he considers to be the often unacknowledged remnants of Cartesian dualism in modern materialist theories of the mind.
According to Marx and Engels (1845), French materialism developed from the mechanism of Descartes and the empiricism of Locke, Hobbes, Bacon and ultimately Duns Scotus who asked "whether matter could not think?" Natural science, in their view, owes to the former its great success as a "Cartesian materialism", bereft of the metaphysics of Cartesian dualism by philosophers and physicians such as Regius, Cabanis, and La Mettrie, who maintained the viability of Descartes' biological automata without recourse to immaterial cognition.
French materialism is the name given to a handful of French 18th-century philosophers during the Age of Enlightenment, many of them clustered around the salon of Baron d'Holbach. Although there are important differences between them, all of them were materialists who believed that the world was made up of a single substance, matter, the motions and properties of which could be used to explain all phenomena.
Mechanism is the belief that natural wholes are like complicated machines or artifacts, composed of parts lacking any intrinsic relationship to each other. Thus, the source of an apparent thing's activities is not the whole itself, but its parts or an external influence on the parts.
In philosophy, empiricism is a theory that states that knowledge comes only or primarily from sensory experience. It is one of several views of epistemology, the study of human knowledge, along with rationalism and skepticism. Empiricism emphasises the role of empirical evidence in the formation of ideas, rather than innate ideas or traditions. However, empiricists may argue that traditions arise due to relations of previous sense experiences.
However, philosopher Daniel Dennett uses the term to emphasize what he considers the pervasive Cartesian notion of a centralized repository of conscious experience in the brain. Dennett says that "Cartesian materialism is the view that there is a crucial finish line or boundary somewhere in the brain, marking a place where the order of arrival equals the order of 'presentation' in experience because what happens there is what you are conscious of."[ This quote needs a citation ]
Daniel Clement Dennett III is an American philosopher, writer, and cognitive scientist whose research centers on the philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, and philosophy of biology, particularly as those fields relate to evolutionary biology and cognitive science.
Other modern philosophers have generally used less specific definitions. For example, O'Brien and Opie define it as the idea that consciousness is "realized in the physical materials of the brain",and W. Teed Rockwell defines Cartesian materialism in the following way: "The basic dogma of Cartesian materialism is that only neural activity in the cranium is functionally essential for the emergence of mind." However, although Rockwell's concept of Cartesian materialism is less specific in a sense, it is a detailed reply to Dennett's version, not an undeveloped predecessor. The main theme of Rockwell's book Neither Brain nor Ghost is that the arguments Dennett uses to refute his version of Cartesian Materialism actually support the view that the mind is an emergent property of the entire Brain/Body/World Nexus. For Rockwell, claiming the entire brain is identical to the mind has no better justification than claiming that part of the brain is identical to the mind.
Dennett's version of the term is the most popular.[ citation needed ]
Descartes believed that a human being was composed of both a material body and an immaterial soul (or "mind"). According to Descartes, the mind and the body could interact. The body can affect the mind; for example, when you place your hand in a fire, the body relays sensory information from your hand to your mind, which results in your having the experience of pain. Similarly, the mind can affect the body; for example, you can decide to move your hand and your muscles obey, moving your hand as you desired.
Descartes noted that, although our two eyes independently see an object, our conscious experience is not of two separate fields of vision each possessing an image of the object. Rather, we seem to experience one continuous, oval-shaped field of vision that possesses information from both eyes which seems to have somehow been 'merged' into a single image. (Consider in a movie, when a character looks through binoculars and the audience is shown what he is looking at, from the character's point of view. The image shown is never made up of two completely separate circular images-- rather the director shows us a single figure-eight shaped region made up of information from each eyepiece.)
Descartes noted that information from both eyes seems to have been merged somehow before "entering" conscious perception. He also noted similar effects for the other senses. Based on this, Descartes hypothesized that there must be some single place in the brain where all the sensory information is assembled, before finally being relayed to the immaterial mind.
His best candidate for this location was the pineal gland, since he thought it was the only part of the brain that is a single structure, rather than one duplicated on both the left and right halves of the brain. Descartes therefore believed that the pineal gland was the "seat of the soul" and that any information that was to "enter" consciousness had to pass through the pineal gland before it could enter the mind. In his perspective, the pineal gland is the place where all information "comes together."
At the present time, the consensus of scientists and philosophers is to reject dualism and its immaterial mind, for a variety of reasons. (See Dualism -- Arguments Against). Similarly, many other aspects of Descartes' theories have been rejected; for example, the pineal gland turned out to be endocrinological, rather than having a large role in information processing.
According to Daniel Dennett, however, many scientists and philosophers still believe, either explicitly or implicitly, in Descartes' idea of some centralized repository where the contents of consciousness are merged and assembled, a place he calls the Cartesian theater.
In his book Consciousness Explained (1991), Dennett writes:
Although this central repository is often called a "place" or a "location", Dennett is quick to clarify that Cartesian materialism's "centered locus" need not be anatomically defined-- such a locus might consists of a network of diverse regions.
In Consciousness Explained, Dennett offers several lines of evidence to dispute the idea of Cartesian materialism.
One argument against Cartesian materialism is that most neuroscientists have discounted the idea of a single brain area where all information "comes together". Instead, information seemed to be stored and processed in a variety of disparate neural structures. For example, once information from the eyes reaches the visual cortex, it is analyzed by a variety of overlapping feature maps, each detecting a particular aspect, but a central location where this information is merged back together to re-represent it has not been found.Dennett argues that there would be no point to such a merger since all the analysis has already been performed and there is no homunculus who would benefit from a reconstructed composite.
Another argument against Cartesian materialism is inspired by the results of several scientific experiments in the fields of psychology and neuroscience. In experiments that demonstrate the Color Phi phenomenon and the metacontrast effect, two stimuli are rapidly flashed on a screen, one after the other. Amazingly, the second stimulus can, in some cases, actually affect the perception of the first stimulus. In other experiments conducted by Benjamin Libet, two electrical stimulations are delivered, one after another, to a conscious subject. Under some conditions, subjects report having felt the second stimulation before they felt the first stimulation.
These experiments call into question the idea that brain states are directly translatable into the contents of consciousness. How can the second stimuli be 'projected backwards in time', such that it can affect the perception of things that occurred before the second stimulus was even administered?
Two different types of explanations have been offered in response to the timing anomalies. One is that perhaps sensory information is assembled into a buffer before being passed on to consciousness after a substantial time delay. Since consciousness occurs only after a time lag, the incoming second stimulus would have time to affect the stored information about the first stimulus. In this view, subjects correctly remember their having had inaccurate experiences. Dennett calls this the "Stalinesque Explanation" (after the Stalinist Soviet Union's show trials that presented manufactured evidence to an unwitting jury).
A second explanation for the timing takes the opposite tack. Perhaps the subjects, contrary to their own reports, initially experienced the first stimulus as being prior to and untainted by the second stimulus. However, when subjects were later asked to recall what their experiences had been, they found that their memories of the first stimulus had been tainted by the second stimulus. Therefore, they inaccurately report experiences that never actually occurred. In this view, subjects have accurate initial experiences, but inaccurately remember them. Dennett calls this view the "Orwellian Explanation", after George Orwell's novel 1984, in which a totalitarian government frequently rewrites history to suit its purposes.
How are we to choose which of these two explanations is the correct one? Both explanations seem to adequately explain the given data, both seem to make the same predictions. Dennett sees no principled basis for choosing either of the explanations, so he rejects their common assumption of a theater. He says:
We can suppose, both theorists have exactly the same theory of what happens in your brain; they agree about just where and when in the brain the mistaken content enters the causal pathways; they just disagree about whether that location is to be deemed pre-experiential or post-experiential. [...] They even agree about how it ought to "feel" to subjects: Subjects should be unable to tell the difference between misbegotten experiences and immediately misremembered experiences.
Dennett's argument has the following basic structure:
According to Dennett, the debate between Stalinesque and Orwellian explanations is unresolvable — no amount of scientific information could ever answer the question. Dennett therefore argues (in accord with the philosophical doctrine of verificationism) that, since the differences between the two explanations are unresolvable, the point of disagreement is logically meaningless so both explanations are mistaken.
Dennett feels that the insistence on a place where 'it all comes together' (the Cartesian Theater) is fundamentally flawed, and therefore that Cartesian materialism is false. Dennett's view is that "there is no single, definitive 'stream of consciousness,' because there is no central Headquarters, no Cartesian Theatre where 'it all comes together'".
To avoid the perceived shortcomings of Cartesian materialism, Dennett instead proposes the multiple drafts model — a model of consciousness which lacks a central Cartesian theater.
Perhaps the primary objection to Dennett's use of the term Cartesian materialism is that it is a philosophy without adherents. In this view, Cartesian materialism is essentially a "Straw Man" — an argument explicitly constructed just so it can be refuted:
The now standard response to Dennett’s project is that he has picked a fight with a straw man. Cartesian materialism, it is alleged, is an impossibly naive account of phenomenal consciousness held by no one currently working in cognitive science or the philosophy of mind. Consequently, whatever the effectiveness of Dennett’s demolition job, it is fundamentally misdirected (see, e.g., Block, 1993, 1995; Shoemaker, 1993; and Tye, 1993).
It is a point of intense debate as to how many philosophers and scientists even accept Cartesian materialism. On the one hand, some say that this view is "held by no one currently working in cognitive science or the philosophy of mind"or insist that they "know of no one who endorses it." (Michael Tye) On the other hand, some say that Cartesian materialism "informs virtually all research on mind and brain, explicitly and implicitly" (Antonio Damasio) or argue that the common "commitment to qualia or 'phenomenal seemings'" entails an implicit commitment to Cartesian materialism that becomes explicit when they "work out a theory of consciousness in sufficient detail".
Dennett suggests that the Cartesian materialism, though rejected by many philosophers, still colors people's thinking. He writes:
Many philosophers question Dennett's immediate rejection of dualism (dismissing it after only a few pages of argument in Consciousness Explained), pointing to a variety of reasons that people often find dualism to be a compelling view (see arguments for dualism).
To proponents of dualism, mental events have a certain subjective quality to them, whereas physical events obviously do not. That is, for example, what a burned finger feels like, what sky blue looks like, what nice music sounds like, and so on. There is something that it's like to feel pain, to see a familiar shade of blue, and so on; These sensations independent of behavior are known as qualia, and the philosophical problem posed by their alleged existence is called the hard problem of consciousness by Chalmers.
Dualists argue that Dennett does not explain these phenomena, so much as ignore them. Indeed, the title of Dennett's book Consciousness Explained is often lampooned by critics, who call the book Consciousness Explained Away or even Consciousness Ignored.
Some philosophers have actively accepted the moniker of Cartesian Materialists, and are not convinced by Dennett's arguments.
O'Brien and Opie (1999) embrace Cartesian materialism, arguing against Dennett's claim that the onset of phenomenal experience in the brain cannot in principle be precisely determined, and offering what they consider to be a way to accommodate Phi phenomenon within the Cartesian materialist paradigm.
Block has described an alternative called "Cartesian Modularism" in which the contents of conscious experience are distributed in the brain.
Despite Dennett's insistence that there are no special brain areas that store the contents of consciousness, many neuroscientists reject this assertion. Indeed, what separates conscious information from unconscious information remains a question of interest, and how information from disparate brain regions are assembled into a coherent whole (the Binding problem) remains a question which is actively investigated. Recently Global Workspace Theory has argued that perhaps the brain does possess some universally accessible "workspace".
Another criticism comes from investigation into the human visual system. Although both eyes each have a blind spot, conscious visual experience does not subjectively seem to have any holes in it. Some scientists and philosophers had argued, based on subjective reports, that perhaps the brain somehow "fills in" the holes, based upon adjacent visual information. Dennett had powerfully argued that such "filling in" was unnecessary, based on his objections to a Cartesian theater. Ultimately, however, studies have confirmed that the visual cortex does perform a very complex "filling in" process.
The impact of this is itself controversial. Some assume that this is a devastating blow against Dennett, while others have argued that this in no way confirms Cartesian materialism or refutes the multiple drafts model, and that Dennett is fundamentally right even if he's mistaken about this detail.
Epiphenomenalism is a position on the mind–body problem which holds that physical and biochemical events within the human body are causal with respect to mental events. According to this view, subjective mental events are completely dependent for their existence on corresponding physical and biochemical events within the human body and themselves have no causal efficacy on physical events. The appearance that subjective mental states influence physical events is merely an illusion. For instance, fear seems to make the heart beat faster, but according to epiphenomenalism the biochemical secretions of the brain and nervous system —not the experience of fear—is what raises the heartbeat. Because mental events are a kind of overflow that cannot cause anything physical, yet have non-physical properties, epiphenomenalism is viewed as a form of property dualism.
The mind is a set of cognitive faculties including consciousness, imagination, perception, thinking, judgement, language and memory. It is usually defined as the faculty of an entity's thoughts and consciousness. It holds the power of imagination, recognition, and appreciation, and is responsible for processing feelings and emotions, resulting in attitudes and actions.
Solipsism is the philosophical idea that only one's own mind is sure to exist. As an epistemological position, solipsism holds that knowledge of anything outside one's own mind is unsure; the external world and other minds cannot be known and might not exist outside the mind. As a metaphysical position, solipsism goes further to the conclusion that the world and other minds do not exist. This extreme position is claimed to be irrefutable, as the solipsist believes themself to be the only true authority, all others being creations of their own mind.
Consciousness Explained is a 1991 book by the American philosopher Daniel Dennett, in which the author offers an account of how consciousness arises from interaction of physical and cognitive processes in the brain.
Mind–body dualism, or mind–body duality, is a view in the philosophy of mind that mental phenomena are, in some respects, non-physical, or that the mind and body are distinct and separable. Thus, it encompasses a set of views about the relationship between mind and matter, and between subject and object, and is contrasted with other positions, such as physicalism and enactivism, in the mind–body problem.
Simulated reality is the hypothesis that reality could be simulated—for example by quantum computer simulation—to a degree indistinguishable from "true" reality. It could contain conscious minds which may or may not be fully aware that they are living inside a simulation. This is quite different from the current, technologically achievable concept of virtual reality. Virtual reality is easily distinguished from the experience of actuality; participants are never in doubt about the nature of what they experience. Simulated reality, by contrast, would be hard or impossible to separate from "true" reality. There has been much debate over this topic, ranging from philosophical discourse to practical applications in computing.
In philosophy of mind and consciousness, the explanatory gap is the difficulty that physicalist theories have in explaining how physical properties give rise to the way things feel when they are experienced. It is a term introduced by philosopher Joseph Levine. In the 1983 paper in which he first used the term, he used as an example the sentence, "Pain is the firing of C fibers", pointing out that while it might be valid in a physiological sense, it does not help us to understand how pain feels.
Eliminative materialism is the claim that people's common-sense understanding of the mind is false and that certain classes of mental states that most people believe in do not exist. It is a materialist position in the philosophy of mind. Some supporters of eliminativism argue that no coherent neural basis will be found for many everyday psychological concepts such as belief or desire, since they are poorly defined. Rather, they argue that psychological concepts of behaviour and experience should be judged by how well they reduce to the biological level. Other versions entail the non-existence of conscious mental states such as pain and visual perceptions.
The hard problem of consciousness is the problem of explaining how and why sentient organisms have qualia or phenomenal experiences—how and why it is that some internal states are felt states, such as heat or pain, rather than unfelt states, as in a thermostat or a toaster. The philosopher David Chalmers, who introduced the term "hard problem" of consciousness, contrasts this with the "easy problems" of explaining the ability to discriminate, integrate information, report mental states, focus attention, etc. Easy problems are easy because all that is required for their solution is to specify a mechanism that can perform the function. That is, their proposed solutions, regardless of how complex or poorly understood they may be, can be entirely consistent with the modern materialistic conception of natural phenomena. Chalmers claims that the problem of experience is distinct from this set and that the problem of experience will "persist even when the performance of all the relevant functions is explained".
A philosophical zombie or p-zombie argument is a thought experiment in philosophy of mind and philosophy of perception that imagines a being that, if it could conceivably exist in this or any other possible world, logically disproves the idea that physical stuff is all that is required to explain consciousness. Such a zombie would be indistinguishable from a normal human being but lack conscious experience, qualia, or sentience. For example, if a philosophical zombie were poked with a sharp object it would not feel any pain sensation, yet would behave exactly as if it did feel pain. The argument sometimes takes the form of hypothesizing a zombie world, indistinguishable from our world, but lacking first person experiences in any of the beings of that world.
Daniel Dennett's multiple drafts model of consciousness is a physicalist theory of consciousness based upon cognitivism, which views the mind in terms of information processing. The theory is described in depth in his book, Consciousness Explained, published in 1991. As the title states, the book proposes a high-level explanation of consciousness which is consistent with support for the possibility of strong AI.
In the philosophy of mind, the China brain thought experiment considers what would happen if each member of the Chinese nation were asked to simulate the action of one neuron in the brain, using telephones or walkie-talkies to simulate the axons and dendrites that connect neurons. Would this arrangement have a mind or consciousness in the same way that brains do?
"What is it like to be a bat?" is a paper by American philosopher Thomas Nagel, first published in The Philosophical Review in October 1974, and later in Nagel's Mortal Questions (1979). In it, Nagel argues that materialist theories of mind omit the essential component of consciousness, namely that there is something that it is like to be a particular, conscious thing. He argues that an organism has conscious mental states, "if and only if there is something that it is like to be that organism—something it is like for the organism to be itself." Daniel Dennett, a critic of Nagel's argument, nevertheless called this paper "the most widely cited and influential thought experiment about consciousness."
The mind–body problem is a philosophical problem concerning the relationship between thought and consciousness in the human mind and the brain as part of the physical body. It is distinct from the question of how mind and body function chemically and physiologically since that question presupposes an interactionist account of mind-body relations. This question arises when mind and body are considered as distinct, based on the premise that the mind and the body are fundamentally different in nature.
This is a list of philosophy of mind articles.
In philosophy and certain models of psychology, qualia are defined to be individual instances of subjective, conscious experience. The term qualia derives from the Latin neuter plural form (qualia) of the Latin adjective quālis meaning "of what sort" or "of what kind" in a specific instance like "what it is like to taste a specific apple, this particular apple now".
Interactionism or interactionist dualism is the theory in the philosophy of mind which holds that matter and mind are two distinct and independent substances that exert causal effects on one another. It is one type of dualism, traditionally a type of substance dualism though more recently also sometimes a form of property dualism.
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