Brain Identity Theory A Defensible Position Philosophy Essay

In this essay I will be arguing that the mind/body identity is not a defensible argument. I will begin by stating what the mind is and body is in key terms and then I will evaluate the principles for and against my thesis.

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The prima facie difference between mental and material objects and states are that material objects occupy a location in space and exhibit spatial dimensions. Mental objects are thoughts and sensations and are non-spatial. So mind are thinking substance and bodies are extended substance, so minds are distinct from bodies. By bodies it means things that take up space for instance our body, tree, baby, plant etc. Minds are conscious entity, a first person point of view. The mind is something that he or she is aware of and has access and therefore no one can see it neither can they have access to it except for that person whereas the body is physical and everyone can see it. Philosophers say we have ‘privileged access’ to our minds.

The mind and body substance began with Rene Descartes who takes the body to be material, made of matter whose essence is extension and the mind to be made up of immaterial substance whose essence is thinking. They are considered by Descartes to be two distant substances. The identity theorists argue differently to what Descartes argues about the mind and the brain. For instance identity theory argues that the mind and the brain are in fact one thing. They would argue that Descartes wrong to think that there is the brain and also the mind and therefore there are two different things. The identity theorists would argue that there is the mind which is the brain. The identity theorist used scientific facts in order to back up their answer. For example the identity of lightning, we all know what lightning is and where it comes. When there is a storm, lightning occurs. However in the ancient times lightning was considered to be an act of anger from gods. However scientists have now proved how lightning’s are created. Electrical discharge in ions is what creates the lightning and therefore they are the same thing. However this response fails, because Descartes argues ‘I can doubt that my body exists, I cannot doubt that I exist, therefore I am not identical with my body’. I will now present an argument in support of this claim. Descartes puts himself in the position of a sceptic. What can I be sure of, the only thing that I can be sure of is my own thoughts and perceptions. I think therefore I am aware of my own thoughts. For example a person could imagine themselves living in a fantasy world or an afterlife in which that person does not have a body/brain since his mind is somewhere else. Therefore it follows that I and my body must be two distinct substances given this argument Descartes argued that mind and brain communicated through the Pineal gland and therefore thought that this was the answer for mental causation. He argued that the mind would do something to the pineal gland which would result the body into action. However during the time of Descartes a famous objection was rose which is how can a non-physical react with a physical object. For example moving my hand up and down is a physical event however it is caused by the mind which is non-physical. On the other hand identity theorists might respond to Descartes is by claiming two sets of theories which have different terms however the term which are used in one theory are practically the same as in another theory. For example water in which we use is everyday language and then the scientific term which is H20 such as atoms and ionic bonds etc. However we understand that there are not two things that are being described here but just one thing. Therefore the identity theory used this in order to link the concept of mind and brain using neuroscience. They are that pain is really a C Fiber firing, this is the conscious experience we get when a certain kind of Fiber in the brain firing. This response also fails because philosopher in the 1950s could not prove this because they argued that the job of neuroscience is the job of the future. They would be able to fill in this information and therefore we need to wait until technology gets better and advanced and neuroscience get more mature. These philosophers argued that it is the science that is going to tell us more how the brain works and whether it is any different from mind.

The identity theory also came under fire from what is called the ‘multiple realization’. The identity theory argues that pain is something that is happening only in the brain. This suggests that if a person does not have a brain then it is impossible for that person to have pain. However if there was a creature that did not have brain we could still come to the conclusion that it could have mental states. For instance if I was to stab it, it would react to it just like animals. If we were mean to them then we could see a physical reaction and so would act differently. But if we were to open the creature up and it did not have any brain, if this was possible then it cannot be the case that the brain is simply the mind. Given this argument Identity theorists would argue that since the mind is the brain and if it is not how an immaterial mind could have involved. The theory of evolution comes into this which supports Identity theory because if mind and brain are different at what stage of evolution do minds appear. If somebody was to say that the mind and brain are separate substance does that mean that there has to be some kind of a separate substance right there at the start of evolution and therefore where did that immaterial substance came from?

In the modern time there has been scientific argument rather than just Identity theory. These arguments come from physics which suggests that the world itself is closed off causally which means nothing can get in or out. Everything which happens in the physical world has a cause which is itself physical, so every physical event has a cause which is itself physical and so there is no room for it anywhere for a nonphysical cause to come into play because of this closure of the causal system. However the casual closure is not as worrying to dualists as it seems because on what basis do we have in believing it. Why should we believe that physics is closed in that way? Physics experiments happen in laboratories and give results however nobody has actually done an experiment for what goes on in the human brain when we think. Science can only tell us that everything will be explained in due course but the idea that we are anywhere near close to doing that is just fantasy.

Descartes final movement to defend the mind and body as separate entities against Identity theory is that ‘god could have created my mind and body as separated entities, therefore it is possible for my mind and body to exist separately therefore my mind and body are in fact distinct things’. The argument for this is to suggest that one day I could look up and see Hesperus and a week or later I see phosperus. I could argue it is possible for something to happen to Hesperus while phosperus survives as long as the person is not aware that both planets are the same thing. However somebody could respond to this argument by saying no it is not possible. One of the objects could meet with a calamity while other survives; this is a truth about my knowledge but not about the planet since both are the same thing. For example the false belief test, if someone was to go to the fridge and pick out a beer but some time later a different person takes out the beer and puts it somewhere else. However the same person who got the beer from the fridge has the belief that the beer is in the fridge even though someone took it out and put it somewhere else which state mental causation. It suggests that we can explain and predict other people’s behaviour.

Based on the evidence that I have provided for Identity theory and arguments against it suggests that Identity theory is not one of the strongest cases against Dualism because views have been raised against it. The identity theories have sound arguments but some of the arguments have come from science which tells us how it works rather than Identity theorist themselves and the arguments they portray are in fact many years away as science needs to get mature therefore they cannot base an argument which we will find out in the future because that argument itself might turn out to be wrong.

To conclude the mind/body identity theory is not a defensible position because it has come under fire from other philosophers as well as different theories have been developed which shows there is or isn’t brain and mind connection which would be considered more in favourable then identity theory.