Archives for the month of: November, 2015


The problem of ‘hard consciousness’ is a sub-problem of the wider mind/body problem. For David Chalmers, the hard problem is qualia or the qualities of sensed experience[1]. The dualist position on mind/body relations is that although we need bodies and brains to have consciousness, consciousness is not the same as our bodily and brain states[2]. Mental events are of a different order to physical events, however they causally interact. This explanation does not explain how they interact but presumably as matter obeys certain physical laws so the mind obeys different laws pertaining to the realm of mental events[3]. However, there is an opposing simplicity argument against dualism and that argument is based upon the principle of rational methodology known as ‘Ockham’s razor’[4]. This can be expressed as not multiplying entities beyond what is strictly necessary to explain phenomena[5]. Therefore, materialists…

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When Réne Descartes (1596-1650) made his pronouncement “cognito ergo sum” he asserted that there was one thing of which he was certain and indubitable and that was that the mind is better known than the body and, therefore, must be distinct from the body[1]. Descartes argued that the body is an ‘automaton’ which, with sufficient knowlege, even its complex behavioural responses could be explained in purely mechanical terms.[2] However, he went on to say that what could not be explained mechanistically was the human capacity for thought[3]. Therefore, he compounded the nature of humanity into two distinct substances, ‘an incorporeal spirit and a purely mechanical body’[4].  This essay will attempt to answer why Descartes thought that we must understand the mind and the body as different substances and whether his argument was valid in relation to the later physicalist account of the…

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