Study Questions for the Second Exam
Four of these questions will be on the exam; you will need to answer three of those. Each answer should be about one and one-half pages long. Each will count for 1/3 of the exam grade.
1. State and explain the disembodiment argument against the identity thesis. Explain why and how Gertler argues that pain has no hidden essence.
~ Physicalism is the view that sensations and other mental states are entirely physical. Dualism is the view that mental states are nonphysical. Gertler defends naturalistic dualism: the view that mental states are nonphysical, but just as much a part of the natural order as sticks and stones. She begins by describing a version of Physicalism called the identity thesis, according to which every type of mental state is identical to some type of physical state. For example, an identity theorist might hold that the mental state of pain just is the stimulation of C-fibers. Identity theories have implications not just about what is the case, but also about what is possible and impossible without C-fiber simulation. Thus, if mental states such as pain can possibly occur even if one has no physical state, then the identity thesis is false. But according to Gertler, it is conceivable that one could experience pain in the absence of physical features. Moreover, according to Gertler, the conceivability of such a scenario is strong evidence that it is possible. Therefore we should reject the identity thesis. This line of argument Gertler calls the Disembodiment Argument. Gertler acknowledges that one might object to this argument by claiming that the mere conceivability of pain in the absence of physical features is not good evidence that such a scenario is really possible. But Gertler argues that if one has a comprehensive understanding of the concepts involved in a thought experiment, then conceivability does a good job of testing for possibility. Further, Gertler argues that our understanding of pain is sufficiently comprehensive, because we conceptualize pain as something with no ‘hidden essence’: the appearance of pain is pain itself. When something has an essence, and its essence can’t be known just by examining our concept of that thing, then the thing has a hidden essence. In this respect, the concept of pain differs significantly from the concept of water, for example. And it is the fact that pain has no hidden essence that ensures that the conceivability of pain in the absence of physical features is evidence of the possibility of the same.
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2. State and explain Carruther’s argument for the identity thesis. Explain the objection that he calls The Complete Knowledge Objection. What is the distinction between the two kinds of knowledge that Carruthers draws in responding to this objection? (You need not explain his response.)
~ Carruthers defends the mind/brain identity thesis, which is that mental states are in fact brain states; thus, when one talks about a mental state (ex: pain) one is referring to a physical state of a brain. Carruthers is careful to point out that “pain” and some particular
description of a brain state do not mean the same thing just as “lightning” does not mean the same thing as “a particular discharge of electricity.” Rather, descriptions of mental phenomena (ex: “this pain feels like X”) and descriptions of a nervous system at the same moment are two different ways of talking about the same thing. Carruther’s argument for the identity thesis is, first, that “some conscious states are casually necessary for some physical ones.” For example, the fact that we have a conscious state of pain causes us to wince. Second, “in a completed neuro-physiological science there will be no need to advert to anything other than physical-physical causality.” Thus, once we have a full physical picture of the brain and its workings, we could describe everything going on from trauma before the pain to the wince without ever referring to the pain itself; we will instead be able to refer to neurons firing and muscles contracting to recount the entire causal process. From these two premises it follows that “some conscious states and events are identical with physical (brain) states and events.” One objection to the identity thesis is The Complete Knowledge Objection – it states that we could know all the physical facts about the brain without knowing what it is like to have experiences. (1) Complete knowledge of physical states would not imply knowledge of what experiences feel like, (2) If experiences were physical states, then complete knowledge of the physical would imply complete knowledge of experiences, (3) So experiences are not physical states. For example, we could know all the facts about how the brain processes color without knowing what it is like to experience color. Just like knowing the physical state of a brain during a roller coaster ride isn’t as much fun as actually riding one. When responding to this objection, Carruthers draws on two kinds of knowledge that are distinct from one another. The two types of knowledge that Carruthers draws on are the ones explained in premise 1 and premise 2 of the Complete Knowledge Argument. Premise (1) states that complete knowledge of physical states would not imply knowledge of what experiences look like, and premise (2) states that if experiences were physical states, then complete knowledge of the physical would imply complete knowledge of experiences. The distinction between the two is that the knowledge in the first premise doesn’t apply to actually knowing what an experience looks like, while the knowledge in the second premise says that if you know what something looks like and you know everything about its physical-ness, then you have complete knowledge on what is like to experience it. Carruthers argues that these are problematic and therefore invalid.
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3. Provide a sketch of a functionalist characterization of the type of mental state: visual experience of redness. Using this characterization, explain the objection to functionalism that invokes the possibility of inverted qualia. We also discuss several other topics like explain the difference between water soluble and fat soluble vitamins
~ People vary considerably in their ability to discriminate colors. Suppose that in an experiment to catalog this variation, Fred is discovered. Fred has better color vision that anyone else on record; he makes every discrimination that anyone has ever made, and moreover he makes one that we cannot even begin to make. Show him a bunch of ripe tomatoes and he sorts them into two roughly equal groups and does so with complete consistency. That is, if you blindfold him, shuffle the tomatoes up, and then remove the blindfold and ask him to sort them out again, he sorts them into exactly the same two groups. We ask Fred how he does it. He explains that all ripe tomatoes do not look the same color to him, and in fact that this is true of a great many objects we classify together as red. He sees two colors where we see one, and he has in consequence developed for his own use two words ‘red 1’ and ‘red 2’ to mark the difference. Perhaps he tells us that he
has often tried to teach the difference between red 1 and red 2 to his friends but has gotten nowhere and has concluded that the rest of the world is red 1 – red 2 color blind – or perhaps he has had partial success with his children; it doesn’t matter. In any case he explains to us that it would be quite wrong to think that because ‘red’ appears in both ‘red 1’ and ‘red 2’ that the two colors are shades of one color. He only uses the common term ‘red’ to fit more easily into our restricted usage. To him, red 1 and red 2 are as different from each other and all the other colors as yellow is from blue. Current popularity aside, functionalism also faces difficulties. The most commonly posed objection cites an old friend: sensory qualia. Functionalism may escape one of behaviorism’s fatal flaws, it is said, but it still falls prey to the other. By attempting to make its relational properties the definitive feature of any mental state, functionalism ignores the ‘inner’ or qualitative nature of our mental states, aka qualia. But their qualitative nature is the essential feature of a great many types of mental state (pain, sensations of color, of temperature, of pitch, and so on), runs the objection, and functionalism is therefore false. The standard illustration of this apparent failing is called “the inverted spectrum thought-experiment.” It is entirely conceivable, runs the story, that the range of color sensations that I enjoy upon viewing standard objects is simply inverted relative to the color sensations that you enjoy. Referring back to the sketch of Fred – when Fred is viewing a tomato, he may have what is really a sensation-of-green where you or I have the normal sensation-of-red; when viewing a banana, Fred may have what is really a sensation-of-blue where you or I have the normal sensation-of-yellow; and so forth. But since we have no way of comparing our inner qualia, and since Fred will make all the same observational discriminations among objects that you or I will, there is no way to tell whether Fred’s spectrum is inverted relative to yours or mine. The problem for functionalism arises as follows. Even if Fred’s spectrum is inverted relative to yours or mine, we remain functionally isomorphic with one another. Fred’s visual sensation upon viewing a tomato is functionally identical with yours or my visual sensation upon viewing a tomato. According to functionalism, therefore, they are the very same type of state, and it does not make sense to suppose that Fred’s sensation is ‘really’ a sensation-of-green. If it meets the functional conditions for being a sensation-of-red, them by definition it is a sensation-of-red. According to functionalism, apparently, a spectrum inversion (or inverted qualia) of the kind described is ruled out by definition. But such inversions are entirely conceivable, concludes the objection, and if functionalism entails that they are not conceivable, then functionalism is false. Don't forget about the age old question of hist 3633 class notes
4. State Ayer’s argument for the claim that an action for which someone is responsible must be determined. Include both (i) Ayer’s discussion of two possibilities: either a choice is something that happens purely as a matter of chance, or it isn’t, and (ii) his discussion of when an action is attributable to an agent.
~ Ayer offers two primary objections to the hard determinism proposed by Holbach and Honderich. First, he casts some doubt upon whether every event must have a cause (a premise of determinism). Scientists have established a number of laws that govern many actions; however, there remain many phenomena that laws cannot account for. It may be the case that those phenomena do in fact follow natural laws, but it is conceivable that they do not. Human actions may be of this sort (though, Ayer admits, many human actions that appear free to the individual are explainable in causal terms). The problem with this objection is that even if human actions are not causally necessitated, it does not follow that
humans are responsible for their actions. That is, if laws do not causally determine human action, it does not follow that humans choose their actions. Rather, they may be the result of chance, but it seems that people are no more responsible for actions that occur by chance than they are for actions that are causally determined. Ayer’s second objection to hard determinism is that determinism is actually compatible with free will. Hard determinists take 'freedom' to contrast with causality; on this account, the only free actions are those that are not caused. Because all actions are caused, it follows that there are no free actions. Ayer thinks that this is a misunderstanding of “freedom.” Instead, he thinks that the proper contrast with freedom is constraint, and even though all constrained actions are caused, it is not the case that all caused actions are constrained. To see why, Ayer considers what actions are constrained. Certainly actions are constrained when one person compels another to act, by, for example, threats of force, hypnosis, or deceit. Actions can also be constrained when no other person intervenes; for example, a kleptomaniac's stealing is constrained insofar as he will steal regardless of his decisions not to steal. These cases differ from the cases in which we think people are free precisely in that free actions are unconstrained. Ayer believes that the claim that behavior is caused just means that behavior can be explained. However, the fact that behavior can be explained does not entail that behavior is constrained. Thus, an action's being caused does not entail that it is constrained. Thus, Ayer argues that free will is compatible with determinism. Don't forget about the age old question of david hill ucr
5. State the argument that Chisholm advances for incompatibilism. Explain Frankfurt’s challenge to one of that argument’s premises.
~ Chisholm argues that (1) if you are ever responsible for what you do, then what you do must have been entirely up to you; that is, you must have been able to do it, and able to refrain from doing it, (2) in order for your action to be entirely up to you, the action must not have been determined by anything that was not itself in your power to bring about or prevent, (3) if determinism is true, then every action you perform is determined by things that were not themselves in your power to bring about or prevent, & (4) therefore, if determinism is true, then you are never responsible for what you do. A conditional analysis of ability is: (i) S was able to A means (ii) if S had chosen to A, S would have A-ed. Chisholm’s objection is that (ii) can be true when (i) is false. It might be true of some agent on some occasion that if she had chosen to A, she would have A-ed. and also true that she was unable to choose to A. In that case, despite its being true that if she had chosen to A, she would have A-ed, she was unable to A. An example: “Suppose that I am offered a bowl of candy and in the bowl are small round red sugar balls. I do not choose to take one of the red sugar balls because I have a pathological aversion to such candy. (Perhaps they remind me of drops of blood and…) It is logically consistent to suppose that if I had chosen to take the red sugar ball, I would have taken one, but not so choosing, I am utterly unable to touch one.” In addition to all of this, we are also neither responsible for actions that are entirely uncaused. There is a third possibility: some events are agent-caused. Chisholm says that we should say that at least one of the events that are involved in the act is caused, not by any other events, but by something else instead. And this something else can only be the agent – the man. This would be agent causation (immanent causation), in contrast with causation by states or events (transient causation). Suppose that some action has been performed, beginning with event A. What is the difference between A’s just happening, with no cause, and the agent’s causing A to happen? Chisholm says in the second case, but not the first, A We also discuss several other topics like which of the following are substances in plant foods that are not digested in the stomach or small intestine?
was caused, and it was caused by the agent. Suppose that some event B has occurred followed by event A. What is the difference between A’s just happening, with no cause, and A’s being caused by B? Chisholm says that in the second case, but not the first, A was caused, and B caused it. One of the argument’s premises, which was formalized into the idea called the Principle of Alternate Possibilities (PAP), had an argument directed towards it by Harry Frankfurt. The PAP states that a person is morally responsible for what she does do only if she can do otherwise. Central to Frankfurt’s attack on PAP is a type of example in which an agent is morally responsible, but could not, at the time of the pertinent action, do otherwise. A close approximation that Frankfurt presents is the example of Jones and Black. Jones has resolved to shoot Smith. Black has learned of Jones’s plan and wants Jones to shoot Smith. But Black would prefer that Jones shoot Smith on his own. However, concerned that Jones might waver in his resolve to shoot Smith, Black secretly arranges things so that, if Jones should show any sign at all that he will not shoot Smith (something Black has the resources to detect), Black will be able to manipulate Jones in such a way that Jones will shoot Smith. As things transpire, Jones follows through with his plans and shoots Smith for his own reasons. No one else in any way threatened or coerced Jones, offered Jones a bribe, or even suggested that he shoot Smith. Jones shot Smith under his own steam. Black never intervened. In this example, Jones shot Smith on his own, and did so unencumbered – did so freely. But, given Black’s presence in the scenario, Jones could not have done otherwise than shoot Smith. Hence, we have a counterexample to PAP. The following can all be true: there were circumstances that made it impossible for the person to do other than what she did, these circumstances played a role in bringing it about that she did that thing, the person really wanted to do what she said, and she did it because she really wanted to do it. Under these circumstances, Frankfurt says the person can be morally responsible for what she did. In shorter terms, Frankfurt’s proposal is that you desired to do that thing, and you did it because you desired to do it; you wanted the desire to do that thing to move you to do it; and your desire to do that thing moved you to do it because you wanted that desire to move you to do it. When all of this is so, you are morally responsible for what you have done. If Frankfurt’s argument against PAP is correct, the free will debate has been systematically miscast through much of the history of philosophy. If determinism threatens free will and moral responsibility, it is not because it is incompatible with the ability to do otherwise. Even if determinism is compatible with a sort of freedom involving the ability to do otherwise, it is not the kind of freedom required for moral responsibility.
6. State a conditional analysis of the ability to act, and explain Chisholm’s objection to that analysis. State Chisholm’s view of what must be the case to have free will. ~ It still remains for the Compatibilist to offer a definition of free will. The Compatibilists define free will with the Conditional Analysis of Free Will: A subject S is free with respect to act A if it is the case both that (1) S did A because S desired to do A and (2) if S ha had different desires, S would have done otherwise than A. The conditional analysis gets its name from the fact that freedom consists in a conditional fact about some of my actions – an act is free if it is true that if I had wanted to do something else, then I would have done something else. The Metaphysical Problem of human freedom might be summarized in the following way: Human beings are morally responsible agents; but this fact appears to conflict with a deterministic view of human action (the view that every event that is involved in an act is caused by some other event); and it also appears to conflict with an
indeterministic view of human action (the view that the act, or some event that is essential to the act, is not caused at all.) Chisholm challenges the conditional analysis of the ability to act by objecting with the following: if an act has no cause at all (i.e. is the result of random chance), it makes no sense to hold someone morally responsible for it for it is not consistent with moral responsibility. Also, if an act was caused by a prior event (which was in turn caused by a prior event, etc., i.e., was caused by something outside the agent’s control), we shouldn’t hold the agent responsible for it. Is there any alternative? I.e., is it possible for an act to be caused and yet not caused by a prior event? For it to be caused, but such that one could have done otherwise? For Chisholm, it makes sense to hold people morally responsible for their behavior only if there is another alternative. If a man, for example, is responsible for a certain event or a certain state of affairs, then that event or state of affairs was brought about by some act of his, and the act was something in his power either to perform or not to perform. Alternately put – we hold people morally responsible for an act only if they could have acted otherwise, i.e., only if they had contra causal freedom with respect to that act. In addition to all this, Chisholm has his own views on what must be the case to have free will: libertarian freedom. Moral responsibility presupposes that the agent is “in control.” It is the factor that makes the difference (in whether or not some act is committed) is the agent who chooses the outcome. Freedom for libertarians requires that a free agent could have chosen otherwise, i.e., it requires contra causal freedom. Chisholm concludes that in order to have moral freedom, we must deny that free events are completely caused by previous events, but we don’t want to claim that free events are not caused at all (as this would make them the results of random chance), so it must be that free events are not (ultimately) caused by a previous event, but instead are caused by the agent.
7. Explain the argument that van Inwagen discusses that, he says, seems to show that an undetermined event can’t be a free action—it can’t be up to you whether such an event occurs. Explain why, he says, appealing to agent causation doesn’t provide a response to that argument.
~ The best way to get an intuitive grip on the problem of free will and determinism is to think of time as a “garden of forking paths.” That is, to think of the alternatives that one considers when one is deciding what to do as being parts of various “alternative futures” and to think of these alternative futures diagrammatically, in the way suggested by a path or a river or a road that literally forks. If Jane is trying to decide whether to tell all or to continue her life of deception, she is in a situation strongly analogous to that of someone who is hesitating between forks in a road. There is another point in van Inwagen’s argument where he discusses the notion of “not having a choice.” The notion of “not having a choice” has a certain logic to it. One of the principles of this logic is, or so it seems, embodied in the following thesis, which van Inwagen refers to as the No Choice Principle: Suppose that p and that no one has (or ever had) any choice about whether p. And suppose also that the following conditional (if-then) statement is true and that no one has (or ever had) any choice about whether it is true: if p, then q. It follows from these two suppositions that q and that no one has (or ever had) any choice about q. Declarative sentences that can replace p and q for every time they occur can create an example like the following: Suppose that Plato died long before I was born and that no one has (or ever had) any choice about whether Plato died long before I was born. And suppose also that the following conditional
(if-then) statement is true and that no one has (or ever had) any choice about whether it is true: if Plato died long before I was born, then I have never met Plato. It follows from these two suppositions that I have never met Plato and that no one has (or ever had) any choice about whether I have never met Plato. The No Choice Principle, to van Inwagen, seems undeniably correct. How could one have a choice about anything that is an inevitable consequence of something one has no choice about? It follows that, given the No Choice Principle, determinism implies that there is no free will. Some incompatibilists attempt to meet van Inwagen’s argument by means of an appeal to a special sort of causation. We may say that “Stalin caused” the deaths of millions of people, but when we talk in this way, we are not, in the strictest sense, saying that an individual was the cause of certain events. It was, strictly speaking, certain events (certain actions of Stalin) that were the cause of certain other events (the millions of deaths). It has been suggested, however, that, although events do indeed cause other events, it is sometimes true that individuals, persons or agents, cause events. According to this suggestion, it might very well be that an event in Jane’s brain – a current-pulse taking the left-hand branch of a neural fork, say – had Jane as its cause. And not some event or change that occurred within Jane, not something Jane did, but Jane herself, the person Jane, the agent Jane, the individual thing Jane. This “type” of causation is usually labeled ‘agent-causation,’ and it is contrasted with ‘event-causation,’ the other “type” of causation, the kind of causation that occurs when one event causes another event. This appeal to agent causation does not help us understand how free will is compatible with indeterminism. Let us suppose that the current-pulse in Jane’s brain goes to the left if and only if Jane causes it to go left, and it goes to the right if and only if Jane causes it to go right. Suppose then that it is undetermined which way it will go – then it is undetermined which way Jane will cause the current-pulse to go. Given this, it is undetermined which of these events will occur: Jane causing the current-pulse to go to the left, or Jane causing the current-pulse to go to the right; and since it is undetermined which of these events will occur, Jane isn’t able to do anything that would render one or the other of them inevitable. Thus, Jane has no choice about which of them will occur. There is an argument for the impossibility of free will that states that (1) free will is incompatible with determinism, (2) free will is incompatible for indeterminism, (3) necessarily, either determinism is true or indeterminism is true, (4) therefore, free will is impossible. But van Inwagen says that we can’t consistently believe that we lack free will – we can’t live sanely without ever deliberating about whether to do this or to do that and you can’t deliberate about whether to do a certain thing without believing that you are able to do it. So, if you deliberate about whether to A or to B, you believe that you’re able to A and that you’re able to B. You believe that you have free will. Thus, if one believes that we lack free will, one will sometimes also believe that one has free will; one will have inconsistent beliefs. So even if free will is impossible, we can’t help but believe, at least sometimes, that we have it. The outcome of our deliberations are undetermined, and yet we have a choice about what the outcomes are. It is a mystery how this is so – how one can have a choice about whether some undetermined event occurs. The concept of agent causation is of no help in resolving this mystery.