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Take Home Exam Philosophy of Mind (3 Pages minimum, Single Spaced, 12 pt font)

The total number of points to be earned is 42 (which includes 7 bonus points). Do not only use the information from the lectures, but also the book! 

Concerning chapters 19-26 Core Questions in Philosophy and Lectures 14-21.

1.    Some philosophers hold that all mental states of a person (like having a desire for something or believing that something is the case) are identical to bodily states of that person (for example, certain brain cells being in a certain state).

a. Explain how it is possible to have this view in two different ways. What are these two theories called? What are the most important differences between the two theories?

b. Now suppose it is discovered that it is possible to manipulate the brain into moving the arm by generating the thought of moving the arm – for example, we can plug an electrode into a specific point in the brain, and by connecting the other end into a machine, we can make the arm move by thinking of moving the arm. This method can be used with practically every human being: you plug in an electrode at the same place in every person’s brain, and the method works to make the person move their arm in the same manner.       

Explain why the above example provides support for one of the theories discussed in a., but evidence against the other theory discussed.

c. What is the theory called which says that these philosophers from the introduction to this question are wrong, and that mental states are not identical to bodily states, but that they have each independent existence? Give two arguments in favor of this alternative view. Evaluate these arguments: do you think they are successful arguments? Why/why not?

d. Imagine the following case: I decide to do something because I want to achieve a goal and I believe that by performing a particular action I can reach that goal, and then because of my decision I actually move my arm and hand, reaching out to the machine which will help me achieve my goal. Which (not necessarily one!) of the three theories of mind discussed already in your answers will be in the best position to explain what is going on in this case? Why? And why do the other two theories/does one of the two other theories less well?

2.    Physics tells us that all things are governed by a set of deterministic laws. Not only are there laws that govern the motions of all physical objects, but also the motion of objects is entirely determined by the events preceding the motion of the object. Similarly, contemporary neuroscience is discovering that this is the case for how the human brain works as well—there are forces beyond our control that are responsible for governing what happens in the physical brain. For example, neuroscientists have demonstrated that simply applying electric current to the brain can cause actions in the body that are uncontrollable, on unintended, by an agent. Additionally, cognitive experiments have demonstrated that the brain makes the decision to move the body in a certain manner before the agent is aware of the decision to make the movement (this has been shown with scans of brain activity when a command is issued).

 a. Explain the implications of the above scientific claims for the three positions we studied concerning free will and determinism. Which one of the theories does the scientific evidence support? Which other two theories does the above evidence cause issues for?

 b. Identify the theory of mind that is presupposed in the above description of the brain and mind. Explain why.

3.    Explain the three ways in which you could understand the concept of free will if you would want to defend soft-determinism. Which one do you like best? Or do they, in your opinion, all have their problems? Explain.

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