Discussion: Psychophysical Theory
Discussion: Psychophysical Theory
Discussion: Psychophysical Theory
It is conceivable that we are in such a position with regard to physicalism. Donald Davidson has argued that if mental events have physical causes and effects, they must have physical de- scriptions. He holds that we have reason to believe this even though we do not-and in fact could not-have a general psychophysical theory.12 His argument applies to intentional mental events, but I think we also have some reason to believe that sensations are physical processes, without being in a position to understand how. Davidson’s position is that certain physical events have irreduc- ibly mental properties, and perhaps some view describable in this way is correct. But nothing of which we can now form a con- ception corresponds to it; nor have we any idea what a theory would be like that enabled us to conceive of it.13
Very little work has been done on the basic question (from which mention of the brain can be entirely omitted) whether any sense can be made of experiences’ having an objective character at all. Does it make sense, in other words, to ask what my experi- ences are really like, as opposed to how they appear to me? We cannot genuinely understand the hypothesis that their nature is captured in a physical description unless we understand the more fundamental idea that they have an objective nature (or that ob- jective processes can have a subjective nature).14
12 See “Mental Events” in Foster and Swanson, Experience and Theory (Amherst, 1970); though I don’t understand the argument against psychophysical laws.
13 Similar remarks apply to my paper “Physicalism,” Philosophical Review LXXIV (i965), 339-356, reprinted with postscript in John O’Connor, Modern Materialism (New York, I969).
14 This question also lies at the heart of the problem of other minds, whose close connection with the mind-body problem is often overlooked. If one understood how subjective experience could have an objective nature, one would understand the existence of subjects other than oneself.
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Discussion Questions (DQ)
- Initial responses to the DQ should address all components of the questions asked, include a minimum of one scholarly source, and be at least 250 words.
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- One or two sentence responses, simple statements of agreement or “good post,” and responses that are off-topic will not count as substantive. Substantive responses should be at least 150 words.
- I encourage you to incorporate the readings from the week (as applicable) into your responses.
- Your initial responses to the mandatory DQ do not count toward participation and are graded separately.
- In addition to the DQ responses, you must post at least one reply to peers (or me) on three separate days, for a total of three replies.
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- I highly recommend using the APA Publication Manual, 6th edition.
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- I discourage overutilization of direct quotes in DQs and assignments at the Masters’ level and deduct points accordingly.
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