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January 18, 20122 responses
Stephen Maitzen and Gabriel Segal
"I recognize that there is some not inconsiderable
paradox in doubting the very idea of being able to form a thought and
using thought to achieve that doubt". Well spotted! Suppose that your doubts about memory lead you this: "I cannot trust any thought, including this one". Where do you go from there? It doesn't look as though the paradoxical nature the thought undermines it in such a way that you can conclude that it is false, and proceed to trust some thoughts. It sort of leaves you with nowhere to go.
I agree with Stephen. Memory is not that unreliable. It is much less reliable than we think. When we seem to remember things our brains seem to do a lot of construction and interpretation, and present to us a partly made-up image of some past even as if it were a perfectly accurate representation. This can get us into trouble. But our short-term memory is pretty good and serves its purpose. It is not hard to keep track of the thoughts involved in a short line of reasoning. It also gets a lot easier if we write them down. We can the create longer lines of reasoning by understanding shorter ones and stringing their conclusions together, keeping track of the overall structure. Memory, combined with pen and paper (or today's equivalents) is good enough to support reason as a discursive process.
January 3, 20121 response
November 17, 20111 response
October 11, 20111 response
After reading this question, I first tried to transmit my answer to you telepathically, but it wasn't working, so I thought I'd try this more traditional method.
In any case, it strikes me that in order for something to count as telepathy, one would have to have some sort of direct and unmediated access to the thoughts of another. Suppose Jane and Clone Jane both go see a movie and, because they have identical genetic makeups and (let's suppose) similar past experiences, they each think something like "The ending would have been more emotionally satisfactory had the hero not gotten killed." Each of them is having the thought for the same reason, but they are each having it independently. That is, Jane's thought has no causal connection to Clone Jane's thought, and Jane does not have any direct access to Clone Jane's thought. And vice versa/ Their thoughts have similar (parallel) explanations, but no direct linkage to one another. So I don't see why this should count as a form of telepathy.
One way to put the point: Though Jane and Clone Jane "share a thought" in the sense that they each have an independent mental state with identical content, they do not "share a thought" in the sense that they each have access to the very same mind/brain state.
September 15, 20112 responses
Andrew Pessin and Andrew Pessin
Hm, good question. But does your question have an implicit premise -- that we do, or think we should, 'force' such people to change? When your conditions are truly met -- they're happy, not dangerous, and, presumably, adequately self-sufficient -- I'm not sure many people DO think we should treat them 'just for the sake of sanity' .... There's a nice novel called "Unless," by Carol Shields, that partly explores these themes -- a young woman suddenly decides to adopt a very alternative lifestyle and her very conventional mother can't help but think there must be something 'wrong' or 'mentally unstable' about her -- raises the question of when does 'difference' become 'illness' -- which I think is just underneath the surface of your question ....
hope that helps--
August 6, 20112 responses
Andrew Pessin and Jasper Reid
My first question wouldn't be how -- since it does seem to me that such people can clearly be 'conscious' in most senses of that word, and dreams often recreate (perhaps altered versions of) conscious experience -- but rather of what? But then again, presuably the answer is of material evident through their other functioning senses ..... Why wouldn't you accept that as an answer? Or are you imagining that a blind and deaf person lacks all conscious experience altogether?
August 4, 20112 responses
Gordon Marino and Jonathan Westphal
July 20, 20111 response
Couldn't "empirical evidence" include that of which we are aware, during consciousness? Is there a major problem in holding that we are aware of our "minds", or at least of our 'awareness', which is a mental state or property? And once you've admitted empirical evidence for the existence of your own mind, are there *serious* objections to granting the existence of others? Alternatively, can't we have empirical evidence that is not of the 'direct observation' variety? I see footprints in the sand and I infer that a person recently walked by, because a person walking by would be the best explanation of what i directly observe. Why not allow that 'other people having minds' might be the best explanation for what we do observe, namely the way others behave and speak etc.?
June 25, 20111 response
Or stones. They may be quietly thinking of Vienna. (Sorry; irresistible inside joke.)
People who think the mind is material don't think there's some special kind of matter ("Mindium?") that has the power to think. They think that matter appropriately structured and in appropriate relationship with the environment allows organisms to have beliefs, feelings, etc. And "appropriately structured" is best illustrated by things like human brains. The matter in trees and lumps of coal doesn't have anything like the kind of structure that brains do. And so the reasons we have for thinking that purely physical things can have minds don't give us reason to think that just any old physical thing can think.
A footnote: some people have suggested that there's a sort of primitive mental character associated with all matter. The view is called panpsychism. But even panpsychists would generally agree that complex mental processes depend on the right kinds of complex arrangements of matter.
June 16, 20112 responses
Charles Taliaferro and Peter Smith
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