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

By D. Cockburn

This ebook differs from others through rejecting the dualist procedure linked particularly with Descartes. It additionally casts severe doubt at the different types of materialism that now dominate English language philosophy. Drawing specifically at the paintings of Wittgenstein, a valuable position is given to the significance of the proposal of a person in our considered ourselves and others.

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But how do we know that anyone else feels pain? We know this, he suggests, through: … an inference, but a perfectly reasonable one, based on observations of their behaviour in situations in which we would feel pain, and on the fact that we have every reason to assume that our friends are beings like us, with nervous systems like ours that can be assumed to function as ours do, and to produce similar feelings in similar circumstances. 30 An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind Now we have exactly the same kind of reason to think that members of non-human species feel pain.

I am not denying that this is obvious: it is obvious to me at any rate, and I hope to you. My point is rather that it is obvious to me because it is obvious to me that dogs feel pain. One who, looking at a dog in (as I would say) obvious agony, seriously questions whether it is in pain, will also wonder whether number of legs, length of nose, and so on might not be relevant differences. The general point here, then, is this. We need some kind of basis for picking out certain bodily features as relevant, and others as irrelevant, to the question of whether another has a mental life.

Examples of this kind will be of great importance to my argument in later stages of this book. Central to much of what I say will be the idea The Cartesian Soul and the Paranormal 25 that a person is a human being: a being of flesh and blood, with a face and arms and legs. Now it might be thought that my use of the term ‘human being’ here is just a fudge. Have I not got to admit that the view that I am opposing to Descartes’ is that people are simply their bodies: complex lumps of matter? The term ‘human being’, it might be said, disguises the unpalatable side of this in so far as in certain contexts it carries connotations of a more elevated kind: as when we say ‘He is a real human being’.

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