In this paper, I will argue that the materialistic approach of the identity theory to the mind/body problem gives a better account of the nature of the mind than René Descartes’ theory of dualism. These two theories take opposite stands when trying to explain the nature of the mind: dualism holds that the mind and the body are different entities; the body/brain being of physical nature, whereas the mind being non-physical. In contrast, the identity theory says that the mind and the brain are the same, and that the terminology that we use to describe them refer to the same thing (Sober, 204). In this essay, I will outline Descartes’ argument of indivisibility and indubitable existence, and how they rely on the use of Leibniz’s law to show that the mind is different from the body. I then propose that the inherent limitations of human beings, and the ignorance of science, make the identity theory stronger than dualism when trying to determine the nature of the mind.
The identity theory takes a materialistic perspective in trying to explain the nature of the mind. This theory considers the properties of the mind to be the same as those of physical things, which means that the terminology used for physical and mental states describe the same items in the world (Sober, 204). For example, to say that we are in the mental state of pain, refers to the activation of pain receptors in the brain and our subsequent perceptual experience of it.
I propose that we should favor the simplicity of the identity theory, since we can test our understanding of what it means for mental states to be the same as physical. Although we might not fully understand the linear relationship b...
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...oday might be proven to be wrong in the future.
We can also consider the ever-developing body of knowledge in science, which is constantly changing to accommodate new understandings of the world and to sometimes show the mistakes of previous conceptions that we held. Our current understanding of the world is bound to change. If we take these arguments into consideration when trying to determine which of the two theories is better at determining the nature of the mind, the identity theory is better suited since it does not attempt to understand the mind as a separate entity, but as being the same as the body, which allows for it to be tested. We cannot reach any conclusive knowledge if the theory is not falsifiable, which is the case for the properties of the mind in dualism, due to our inherent limitations and ignorance about the totality of knowledge of the world.
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