Theory of Mind: Daniel Dennett vs. Thomas Nagel Essay Sample

The mind-body job consists of two really different theories ; Dualism and philistinism. These are two theories that are on opposite sides of the spectrum and I will compare non merely their thoughts. but besides the ways in which they coincide and oppose each other. From these two theories. I agree with philistinism since I believe our consciousness and “life” consists of nil more than the physical head.

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Dualism is the premise that mental phenomena are both non-physical and physical. dwelling of a physical organic structure and a non-physical head. A celebrated dualist was Thomas Nagel. whom attributed the consciousness of the head to physical and non-physical belongingss. Thomas Nagel believed that dualism was the right theory of life due to the fact that the consciousness of head is excessively complex to hold arisen through entirely physical agencies. In his publication titled What is it like to be a chiropteran? Nagel builds on his Manichaean position of life and stress how any strictly physical account for the consciousness of head. if existing. is in the distant rational hereafter. Nagel believes that we have perfectly no construct of how a physical account for the mind-problem would be. and hence strengthens his Manichaean point of view of the head.

As stated in What is it like to be bat? . nevertheless. there are some limitations as to whether an being can be considered witting. as described in the undermentioned statement “But basically an being has witting mental provinces if and merely if there is something that it is like to be that being — something it is like for the being. ” ( Nagel 2 ) . Nagel calls this the subjective character of experience and goes on to state that this thought is fundamentally the antonym of the mercenary position since it is non captured by any reductive analyses. Nagel affirms that the subjective character exists and uses this as a signifier of discrediting philistinism since the subjective character is non analyzed in the mercenary point of view which from Nagel’s point of view. is a mark of the rawness of the theory of philistinism. Nagel farther illustrates his thought of the subjective character by supplying the illustration of being a chiropteran.

He states that it is impossible to conceive of ourselves as a chiropteran since our imaginativeness is limited by our ain personal experiences and that the most we could perchance conceive of of our lives as chiropterans would be how we can act as chiropteran or. in other words. how a human would experience as a chiropteran. alternatively of how a chiropteran feels as a chiropteran. As said in What is it like to be a chiropteran? “In the instance of experience on the other manus. the connexion with a peculiar point of position seems much closer. It is hard to understand what could be meant by the nonsubjective character of an experience. apart from the peculiar point of position from which its capable apprehends it. ” ( Nagel 6 ) This point exemplifies the cogency of the subjective character of experience and farther grounds of dualism. since there is presently no signifier in which the particular point of position. a critical portion of an organism’s subjective character of experience. can be explained through physical agencies and hence. with our present rational restrictions. the lone plausible decision is to state that the consciousness of an person is a combination of physical and non-physical individualities.

Nagel’s positions on the theory of head can be explained as Manichaean in nature although he uses alien statements to warrant his place. As I have stated above. Nagel normally uses the subjective character of a chiropteran and our inability to see this character as a agency of farther turn outing that dualism is most possible the right pick. Nagel besides believes that in virtually all topics of the head. holding an nonsubjective position allows you to see the bigger image and. hence. hold a more precise and accurate apprehension of that specific topic. An exclusion to this regulation. nevertheless. is experience. since the existent specific point of position and the subjective character of the person are such a critical portion of it. Hence. deriving an of all time increasing nonsubjective position of experience would really diminish the truth and preciseness of your understanding since something every bit of import as the feeling of being a homo. for illustration. would be lost. Nagel besides brings up another common mercenary statement. which is the fact that the head is composed of physical procedures. but takes it a measure further and provinces that here must be something that it is like for these procedures to take topographic point and merely this can non be further simplified or reduced.

Harmonizing to Nagel. any physical procedure that affects the head besides has a subjective character of experience and that is what shows the non-physical side of all beings. Nagel. nevertheless. ne’er to the full discards the thought that philistinism is incorrect. Alternatively. he hypothesizes that although any soon available account for philistinism is incorrect ; there is a chance that a right mercenary theory could be created in the rational hereafter. In What is it like to be a chiropteran? Nagel writes “For illustration. people are now told at an early age that all affair is truly energy. But despite the fact that they know what “is” means. most of them ne’er form a construct of what makes this claim true. because they lack the theoretical background. ” ( 8 ) .

In the quotation mark above. you can infer Nagel’s point of view that any scientific account. although correct. is normally merely understood for what it states and concludes alternatively of why it is every bit stated. similar to how a kid knows everything is energy without cognizing about sub-atomic atoms and their many belongingss. Nagel’s decision on the mind-body job. therefore. is that while there is no definite right decision. due to the current defects in the rational field and the fact that a subjective point of position can non be made nonsubjective while keeping truth. dualism seems to be the most plausible decision.

On the other manus. Dennett is inclined towards the mercenary position of the head. Dennett concludes that all beings including worlds can be regarded as knowing systems. These knowing systems. harmonizing to Dennett. are entities whose behaviour can be predicted if you observe it from an knowing stance. In the knowing stance. you treat the entities you are detecting as agents that choose to act in a certain manner through their ain agencies. Dennett besides believed. nevertheless. that this behaviour would be caused by underlying beliefs and desires about their environment and themselves. Dennett besides believes that knowing systems exhibit the philosophical belongings that their beliefs and desires must be about something. An illustration of this would be desiring a plaything because it seems merriment. In this illustration. the plaything is the knowing object and you have a desire and belief about it. Therefore. there would be an international system happening merely like Dennett hypothesized.

In The Intentional stance Dennett provinces “It is as if these cells and cell assemblies were bantam. simple-minded agents. specialised retainers rationally fostering their peculiar obsessional causes by moving in the ways their perceptual experience of fortunes dictated. The universe is pullulating with such entities. runing from the molecular to the continental in size and including non merely “natural” objects. such as workss. animate beings and their parts. but besides many human artefacts. Thermostats. for case. are a familiar illustration of such simple pseudoagents. ” ( 34 ) With the above statement it becomes clear that Dennett believed that life things and their constituents can be observed from the knowing stance because the manner in which they behave is produced through systems and processes that seek ends and are driven by information. Later in The knowing stance Dennett farther elaborates how a common family point such as a thermoregulator can be considered an knowing system “It has a fundamental end or desire. which it acts on suitably whenever it believes that its desire is unrealized. Of class you don’t have to depict a thermoregulator in these footings.

You can depict it in mechanical footings. or even molecular footings. But what is theoretically interesting is that if you want to depict the set of all thermoregulators you have to lift to this knowing degree. What thermostats all have in common is a systemic belongings that is captured merely at a degree that invokes belief-talk and desire-talk. ” ( 42 ) Another point that Dennett sees as an of import advantage of the knowing stance is that it is convenient to utilize when seeking to foretell the result of something. Harmonizing to Dennett there are besides two other methods of foretelling the behaviour of something. These two other methods are called the physical stance and the design stance. The physical stance is when you use scientific Torahs to foretell the result of an action while the design stance is the method in which presuming is based on the thought that the entity is designed to work in a certain manner in a certain state of affairs and it is working decently.

Both of these signifiers of foretelling an result are accurate but the design stance is considered more efficient since it saves clip and doesn’t wage much attending to the existent interior workings of the entity that really cause it’s behaviour. alternatively. it merely focuses on the practical applications and mechanisms of the entity. Although Dennett’s knowing stance seems like a sound hypothesis. there are some defects to this method such as how it does non supply a clear differentiations between life and inanimate entities in which the latter. although the theory might propose otherwise. are every bit far as we know. incapable of transporting out any mental procedures. It is besides non clear on whether this stance is a planetary theory of all mental provinces or merely specific mental provinces.

In concluding analysis. I personally believe that although both theories have some interesting positions of the head and some parts that I do non to the full agree with. the most plausible and logical decision is the philistinism that Dennett patrons. Although Dennett’s political orientation isn’t clear in how you distinguish populating from inanimate ( such as in the thermostat illustration ) and that it might non use to every individual procedure of the head. I believe that it is far more across-the-board of all the countries of the head than Nagel’s thoughts which I for one think are far excessively narrow since they focus far excessively much on the subjective character of experience instead than all of the other every bit complex procedures of the head. Dennett’s decisions of the head besides have much more insight as to how we respond to our milieus and how our head processes assorted stimulations and reacts to the aforesaid stimulations.

As I antecedently stated. Nagel has a much excessively narrow focal point and doesn’t truly show an sentiment on many other facets of the head and of dualism and alternatively attempts to supply cogent evidence for dualism that. in my sentiment. falls short since it is of excessively narrow range and leaves many more facets of the head unfastened to inquiry. hence ne’er really supplying strong plenty grounds to warrant his point of view. I am besides inclined to believe Dennett’s philistinism more than Nagel’s dualism since Dennett exemplifies all of his sentiments and screens all countries of the head with his personal sentiment and justifications for those sentiments.


Dennett. Daniel Clement. The Intentional Stance. 1st erectile dysfunction. Cambridge. Ma: MIT. 1987. PDF. Nagel. Thomas. “What Is It like to Be a Bat? ” Philosophical Review LXXXIII ( 1974 ) : 435-50. Utep. edu. 20 Apr. 2004. Web. 13 May 2012. Guttenplan. Samuel. A Companion to the Philosophy of Mind. Oxford: Blackwell. 1994. Print. Nagel. Thomas. “Conceiving the Impossible and the Mind-body Problem. ” Nyu. edu. Ney York University. Web. 13 May 2012. .


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