2012/05/14 at Faculty of Letters, Kyoto University
Lecturers & Titles
Prof. Graham Parkes（University College Cork）
Nuclear Power after Fukushima 2011: Promethean and Buddhist Perspectives
Prof. Nick Zangwill（Durham University）
Minds and Brains
Many philosophers declare themselves to be ‘naturalist’ in their approach, which means, approximately, that the methodology of empirical science is brought to bear on philosophical questions. In the philosophy of mind, those who pursue the ‘naturalist’ project think that we should pursue philosophical questions in the light of empirical sciences such as psychology and brain science.
However, these thinkers is that they simply assume that mental kinds are natural kinds, since that is the hidden premise for the idea that the empirical pursuit of natural facts will yield an account of what mental kinds are, and which will explain the relations in which they stand. But this begs the question about the kind of kind mental kinds are. This is an important prior question.
Suppose that someone claims that mental states have the essential property of being prime, or that the number 2 has the essential property of being yellow, or that being a table feels a certain way. We know a priori that this is wrong. Insofar as we can think of things we must identify them as things of the relevant kind, with distinctive identity and persistence conditions. Otherwise we are not thinking thoughts about that kind of thing. This is also true of thoughts about the mind. The argument against thoroughly modern materialists is that we know a priori that mental states are fundamentally different kinds of thing from physical states, and that difference precludes identity or essentialist relations.
Neuroscience is interesting and important but of no philosophical consequence given the kind kind question. Should we ask the empirical discipline of history to help us with Frege’s question of whether Julius Ceasar is or could be a number? Obviously not. Neuroscience is irrelevant in the same way to philosophical questions about the mind.