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

By D. Cockburn

This publication differs from others by way of rejecting the dualist process linked specifically with Descartes. It additionally casts critical doubt at the 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 idea of a man or woman in our thought of ourselves and others.

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Would such a discovery do anything at all to suggest that my car is not that familiar thing with four wheels, a roof, and so on? Would it support the idea that it is possible for my car to live on after the disintegration of the extended, tangible thing parked outside? This, I take it, is obvious nonsense. Now on the face of it, it is the same with people. It is one thing to ask what a person’s states are dependent on. That is a question for science. It is quite another to ask what those states are states of; to ask, that is, what it is that thinks, sees, is happy or sad and so on.

Now I think that is right. Leaving aside for the moment the phenomena we are dealing with – namely OBEs – this seems to be a very well-supported universal truth. But it is only a well-supported truth in so far as it is assumed that people are human beings. For what we seem to have strong evidence for is the claim that: human beings – these visible, tangible entities with arms and legs and heads – are always situated at that point from which their visual perspective on the world is. Now this is no use at all for the person who wants to use OBEs to establish some form of dualism.

It is sometimes suggested that scientific knowledge of neurophysiology has a particularly central place in any serious effort to determine what sensations and so on should be ascribed to other species. Singer, for example, stresses the close similarities between the nervous systems of human and non-human species. Now one point to note here is that this appeal will only appear compelling to one who accepts that it is quite clear that human beings feel pain and so on. The research that establishes that certain features of the nervous system are closely linked with sensations such as pain only does so against the background of the assumption that at any rate the subjects of the physiological research are creatures that feel pain.

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