David M. Armstrong

in Sketch for a Systematic Metaphysics

Published in print July 2010 | ISBN: 9780199590612
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191723391 | DOI:

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The mind is still the most challenging existent to pin down ontologically. I uphold the idea that the mental is identical with states and processes in the brain. The once widely held idea that it is immediately evident to introspection that mental processes are not processes in the brain can be adequately explained away as an illusion arising from our inability to be aware of the positive nature of the mind. This is illustrated by the Headless Woman Illusion. Though unaware of its physical nature, we are nevertheless introspectively aware of a certain amount that goes on in our own mind. This is consciousness in one important sense of the word. It can be demystified when this consciousness is compared to our special awareness of certain things going on in our own body, e.g. proprioception, a channel of awareness that is private to each of us. It is noted that without such consciousness solving problems ‘in the head’ is impossible. What Locke called the secondary qualities, colour, sound, taste, smell, etc. present themselves as objective properties, but seem to have no place in the scientific image of the world. This is a serious difficulty for a physicalist account of the mind. It seems necessary to espouse a second identity theory where these qualities are identified with the correlated quantities uncovered by scientific research. In the case of colour surfaces an ‘Argument from Magnification’ is proposed that may show how this identity is made more intelligible. Finally, mental states and processes regularly (and perhaps always) have what Brentano called ‘intentionality’. They point beyond themselves to ‘objects’ that need not exist. This should remind us of the way dispositions point to manifestations that need not occur. Perhaps mental intentionalities can be analysed as exceedingly complex dispositions, or at least as having significant resemblances to dispositions.

Keywords: mind; brain; headless woman; consciousness; secondary qualities; John Locke; magnification; intentionality; Franz Brentano

Chapter.  3673 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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