PHIL 150 INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY
Part I. Questions on the Mind-Body Problem.
1. Descartes on the Mind-Body Problem. We know that for Descartes “the mind is
not part of the physical world at all.” Did Descartes allow for any linkage between the
immaterial mind and the material body? In the Introduction to Part IV, “Minds,
Bodies, and Persons” the editors explain that “Descartes theory is that there is no
linkage between the mind and the body- that is why this theory is called “dualistic”.
In fact, to him the mind, that is to say the soul, is not material and does not get
corrupted, while the body is.
2. Bertrand Russell on the Problem of Other Minds. In his text “The Argument
from Analogy for Other Minds” Russell suggests a solution to the problem of other
minds. He claims that the existence of other minds can be inferred on the basis of the
principle of analogy used in scientific reasoning. He came up with a postulate (a
proposition) that defines “the assumption of probability”. His postulate at the very
end of the above text begins with these words: “If whenever we can observe whether
A and B are present or absent, we find that every case of B has an A as a causal
antecedent, than it is probable that most B’s have A’s as causal antecedents, even in
cases where observation does not enable us to know whether A is present or not”.
QUESTIONS ON ALTERNATIVES TO DESCARTES
Most twentieth century philosophers reject Cartesian notion of an immaterial
mind and insist that minds should be viewed as “parts or aspects of the physical
world.” They “claim that talk about beliefs and desires and pains only seems to
be talk about a nonphysical realm, but is actually just a complicated way of
talking about bodies, brains, and behavior.” (p. 307). The alternative theories
are advanced by G. Ryle, D.M. Armstrong and P. Churchland.
3. THEORY #1. Ryle’s Theory of Logical Behaviorism. Ryle believed that mental
states are not real at all and that the “immaterial mind” does not exist—because the
mind is the brain. He criticized Descartes dualistic explanation as “the myth” of the
“Ghost in the machine.” One of the illustration which he used to demonstrate the
absurdity of the “official doctrine” was the illustration about a child observing the
march-past of a division. In section 2 of his text “Descartes’ Myth” he says “The
same mistake would be made by a child witnessing the march-past of a division, who,
having had pointed out to him such and such battalions, batteries, squadrons, etc.,
asked when the division was going to appear. He would be supposing that a division
was a counterpart to the units already seen, partly similar to them and partly unlike
them. The march-past was not a parade of battalions, batteries, squadrons and a
division; it was a parade of the battalions, batteries and squadrons of a division”.
4. THEORY #2. Armstrong’s Identity Theory. Armstrong recognized that mental
states are real, but, in difference to Descartes, mental states are quite literally identical
with physical states of the brain. That is why Armstrong’s theory is called the
Identity Theory. At the end of his text “The Nature of Mind” Armstrong concludes:
“But if we are convinced, on general scientific grounds, that a purely physical
account of man is likely to be the true one, then there seems to be no bar to our
identifying these inner states with purely physical states of the central nervous
5. THEORY #3. PAUL CHURCHLAND’S THEORY OF ELIMINATION OF
FOLK PSYCHOLOGY IN FAVOR OF NEUROSCIENTIFIC THEORY.
Name, and provide one sentence comment on the four examples of historical mistakes
and false notions provided by Churchland which he uses to demonstrate that our folk
psychological concepts of mind, feeling, fear, pain, etc. need to be replaced by
neuroscientific concepts. (On the basis of the section “Historical parallels”).
Our perception of the world it’s not how it really is.
Radically scientific revolutions alter the way people think about things.
Folk psychology fails to explain such common activities as sleep, learning,
intelligence and mental illness.
The phenomena of conscious intelligence are more complex and harder to understand
than any of the above, so there is little likelihood that our folk ideas about
consciousness could be right.
DAVID M. ARMSTRONG ON CONSCIOUSNESS IN HIS TEXT “THE NATURE
6. We know from Armstrong’s text “The Nature of Mind” that he understood
consciousness as an “inner eye” of the brain that scans other parts of our nervous
system. At the end of his text Armstrong concludes: “And so consciousness of our
own mental state becomes simply the scanning of one part of our central nervous
system by another part.
7. What illustration does Armstrong use to demonstrate that our consciousness is
“nothing, but perception or awareness of the state of our own mind” ? And that
there are times when we have an awareness of the state of our mind and there are
other times when we do not. Describe Armstrong’s illustration about driving a
vehicle. What does it help us to understand? It helps us to understand that a driver
is not normally conscious of what he is doing- his state of automatism aims to
represent only significant objects.
Part II Questions on Kantian, Utilitarian and Aristotelian Ethics.
QUESTIONS ON KANTIAN ETHICS
8. What is the major difference between Kant’s understanding of the rightness of
action and utilitarian understanding? For the utilitarian understanding, an action
is morally right if it will produce, more than other possible actions, happiness
among other people, while Kant distinguishes between moral duty and ethic duty
of a person, so that reason determines one’s will conformed to the laws.
9. Describe Kant’s understanding of “good will”. (On the basis of Kant’s text
“Groundwork of the Mataphysic of Morals”.) “Good will” for Kant is the only
thing that is absolutely, which is to say detached from other things, good.
10. (WORTH ONLY 5 POINTS). What is the difference between the hypothetical
imperative and the categorical imperative in Kant’s ethics? The first one
determines what to do in order to accomplish a certain goal, while the second one
determines what to do regardless one’s specific goals, so it is more general.
11. Provide 3 illustrations of wrong actions of the person who was asked to return the
borrowed funds. (On the basis of your recollection of class lecture and the
Revision Handout.) What three bad options did he have and what three wrong
and abominable universal rules can be deduced from his actions? If those rules
would be applied universally, what would become of human race? How does this
illustration explain Kant’s “Formula of Universal Law” (which was just another
way Kant used to explain the essence of his “categorical imperative”)?
a. First illustration
He is unable to pay it back
b. Second illustration
Contemplating a false promise
c. Third illustration
Thinking that it will never happen
QUESTIONS ON ARISTOTELIAN ETHICS
12. (WORTH ONLY 5 POINTS). What is the meaning of eudaimonia in Aristotle?
Eudaimonia means happiness in ancient Greek and it is the final purpose of everyone’s
13. (WORTH ONLY 5 POINTS). What does Aristotle understand by ergon?
Ergon is, in the Nicomachean Ethics, a task or a work.
14. (WORTH ONLY 5 POINTS). What is the meaning of arête in Aristotle’s ethics?
Areté means virtue in Greek, and for Aristotle it was determined by reason (logos) and
what a wise man would do.
15. Explain Aristotle’s understanding of virtues? How does he relate virtues to
happiness? (On the basis of your recollection the text Nicomachean Ethics).
Provide a list of virtues according to Aristotle (Name at least four).
Happiness is obtained by managing in an excellent way activities that belong to the
faculties of the soul. Virtues are, for example, Justice, the Right Mean, Prudence and
16. Which 2 virtues did Aristotle understand to be the greatest? What is the meaning
of contemplation? (On the basis of your recollection of the material in the
Revision Handout) Magnamity and phronesis. Contemplation is the way
philosophers run their life, that is to say seeking happiness with their own
17. What did Aristotle understand by the Doctrine of the Mean? (On the basis of your
recollection of the material in the Revision Handout) The Doctrine of the mean is,
for Aristotle, something that helps us to balance our excesses or deficiencies, in
order to run a virtuous life.
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