An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind: Souls, Science by D. Cockburn

By D. Cockburn

This booklet differs from others by way of rejecting the dualist method linked specifically with Descartes. It additionally casts severe doubt at the types of materialism that now dominate English language philosophy. Drawing specifically at the paintings of Wittgenstein, a crucial position is given to the significance of the inspiration of a man or woman in our thought of ourselves and others.

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This has dramatic implications for our conception of ourselves. For example, it rules out the possibility of our thinking of ourselves as in any way responsible for what we do; what we do must be accepted as being the product of the impersonal mechanisms described by the physicist. More generally, the idea that we are fundamentally ‘spiritual’ beings – beings that have the kind of value traditionally associated with talk of ‘the soul’ – must be abandoned. This kind of argument will be of considerable importance in later chapters.

In addition, we know that these animals have nervous systems very like ours, which respond physiologically as ours do when the animal is in circumstances in which we would feel pain. (Singer, 1978, pp. 10–11) We might feel a similar need for the argument from analogy when confronted with an extreme form of racism. 2. Which bodily similarities are relevant? But can the argument from analogy provide what we need here? I am supposed to conclude from the fact that I see other bodies like mine, which behave much as mine does, that behind these bodies lie other minds that have experiences similar to those of which I am immediately aware in my own case.

We are all, I think, tempted to interpret the reported phenomena in terms of the individual ‘leaving her body’. Many will no doubt feel that it must be quite easy to meet the points I have made since, it will be said, this interpretation of the phenomena is so obviously the most natural one. Now I suspect that this feeling reflects, in part, a curious ease with which we slide between two quite different 20 An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind pictures of what a person is. We can see this by focusing on one of the objections that I raised in the previous section.

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