PHL100: Smart and Materialism
Smart and Materialism
Smart's "Sensations and Brain Processes"
- Smart's concern and target is consciousness.
- Important point!: in 20th century philosophy
of mind, there is no longer any clear one thing that is
being explained or reduced. For some it is consciousness,
for others representation, etc. So always ask yourself,
what mental phenomenon is at issue here?
- Smart sees materialism as an application of Ockham's
razor: it is more simple to suppose that physico-chemical
explanations will succeed.
- Still, consciousness has been one area that seems
resistant to physical reduction.
- Reduction is NOT about meaning. Clearly, "x is a
pain" does not mean "x is a brain state of such and
such a kind". But, it could be a contingent scientific fact
that x was such a brain state.
- Smart considers 8 objections (our book lists only 7 of them)
- Ignorant people can talk of experiences. So how
can they be brain states of which such people know
nothing? Reply: we can refer to a thing without
knowing its true nature. Consider lightening.
- Brain-experience identity must be contingent, but
then if an experience could be something else an experience
is not essentially a brain process. Reply: meaning
need not match facts. Whether the terms could be used
differently does not change what is the case.
- Consciousness has irreducible properties. I see
an apple, but I also see red. Reply: When one
says "I see red," they are saying something equivalent
to "I see what I see when I am looking at a red
thing." There are not two things here: red property
- An afterimage is not in physical space, but the
brain process is. Reply: I am not claiming an
after-image is a brain process, but that the experience
of having an after-image is a brain process.
- Brain properties are not the properties of conscious
experiences. Reply: his theory has it that the
experience and some brain state are the same thing, but
not that the experience has all the properties of the brain.
- Sensations are private, brain states are public.
Reply: The logic of the discourses differs, but
with brain science advancement maybe they won't.
- I can imagine myself as a stone with consciousness.
Reply: I can imagine that lightening is not
electricity. But it is.
- How could material sensation language get off the
ground, since they are (for us) private?
Reply: Again: to describe a pain is like
saying, "this feels like when I'm burned." To
describe a color is like saying, "this looks like a
ripe macintosh apple." So, the naming for these things
typically is for external behavior or phenomena.
- One noteworthy thing about the kind of arguments that
Smart is worried about is that they are very much based upon
how we understand our experience. This is perhaps the
heritage of Descartes: my experience is somehow special
in its immediacy and primacy.