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Title: The physical analysis of mental states and events
Author: Taylor, Brandon
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 1974
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The purpose of the essay is to arrive at a clear assessment of what the doctrine of physicalism means, as it concerns mental events and mental states; and to exhibit and adjudicate the factors which bear on its truth or falsehood. The main themes of the essay are the reduction of the mental to the physical, and the identity theory. Chapter I explains why mental language is so apparently indispensable to various theoretical enterprises, and shows why it seems impossible to dispense with mental language in favour of behavioural language. The reductive programmes of Carnap are discussed, and alternatives to them are introduced. In Chapter II two theories with a physicalistic conclusion are examined, and found wanting. The first is Putnam's theory that mental states are functional states of the organism, and that a Turing Machine table can represent the relation between mental states without implying what physical realisations they have. The second is Davidson's "proof" that mental events are identical with physical events; its main weakness lies in the premiss that the mental and the physical interact causally. Chapter III is addressed to the ontological question of what mental phenomena there are. The main conclusion is that the evidence suggests that, in a strict sense, there are no mental events. This entails that physicalism is to be best understood in terms of the truth-relations between mental and physical sentences (or equivalently, in terms of the identity either of mental properties with physical properties, or of mental facts with physical facts). Chapter IV argues that physicalism can only be coherently stated in terms of the nomological equivalences between mental and physical sentences. The arguments which obstruct the truth of this doctrine for the case in which the physical sentences have a behavioural content cannot be applied to the case in which the physical sentences have a cerebral content. One important general difference between the truth-grounds of mental sentences and the truth-grounds of physical sentences (explained in terms of a consciousness condition) provides an explanation for why a reduction of the mental to the cerebral is the only possibility open for physicalism.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Philosophy