1. Behaviourism – Mental states are
dispositions to behave
2. IdentityTheory – Mental States are
3. Functionalism - Mental States are
functional states that causally relate
inner states with behavioural effects.
4. Eliminative Materialism – Mental
states do not exist
• Physicalist theories about
the mind are based
around the idea that we
can explain mental states
in terms of physical
• Advances in neuroscience
suggests that our mental
life is dependent on
physical processes within
our bodies – especially the
• Tied to the development of psychology
• In order to learn about the mind
psychologists began to study human
• Logical behaviourism B. F. Skinner (1904-
• He claimed we can eliminate all mental
terms like ‘pain’, ‘belief’, or ‘hope’, from our
scientific discourse into claims about
• E.g. Consider ‘John loves Lucy’. This
sentence should not be considered good
scientific language since we cannot verify
the statement as true or false.
• He argued the sentence should be
translated into something more meaningful
about behaviour. E.g. John has a tendency
to bring Lucy flowers or he tells often
enough that he ‘loves her’.
• As this behaviour can be verified it
therefore provided a more reliable method
of scientific discourse.
• This then is the argument
• Logical behaviourists suggest all
mental states of mind like beliefs and
sensations can be understood as
states of mind to behave in certain
• What would an LB transform this
• Henry is mad with Caroline
• LB solves the mind/body problem by
explaining minds in terms of
• It avoids therefore the problem of
interaction that causes severe
problems for the dualists.
• One fundamental flaw to LB is
that people at times act in ways
that clearly doesn’t reflect their
• Real feelings do not always
correspond to behaviour.
• E.g Pretending we like someone
in fact we can’t stand them.
• Discuss – Is there any situations
in your lives in which your
behaviour has not corresponded
to your thoughts and feelings?
• Noam Chomsky in response to
the LBs belief that all future
behaviour can be predicted as a
result of past behavioural
experiences argued that the
minds ability to write or speak
propositions or sentences that
have never been constructed
before is evidence that the
mind can think independently
of past experiences.
• The mental state needed to
create this goes against the
idea that our mental states are
patterns of behaviour.
• Few people believe their
mental life can be reduced to
talk about behaviour.
• A plausible intuitive theory
• Phineas Gage
• According to IT Phineas Gage’s
brain was significantly altered by
the steal bar. His radical change
in behaviour was due to brain
damage that changed his mental
disposition. The general claim is
therefore that mental states are
ultimately brain states.
• This is central claim of identity
• Neuroscience supports this view.
• Mental functions can be associated
with different parts of the brain.
• If mind and brain are the same
thing then we can understand all
mental phenomena as a physical,
chemical reaction of neurons.
• The thought that QPR are a great
football team is nothing more than
the firing of neuron 27556 to
• Depression and schizophrenia is
the result of chemical imbalances
in the brain.
• Sufferers respond to medication
reinforcing the idea mental states
and brain states are the same
• John Searle points out that if brain
states are identified with mind
states then ‘wherever there is no
brain, there is no mind’.
• Yet if we imagine the possibility of
having our brains replaced bit by bit
by silicon chips it is not implausible
to assume we still have a mental
• Lower forms of life have very little
brains yet we assume they have
some sort of mental conscious life.
• Suppose we encounter an Alien
made entirely of unknown
materials we wouldn’t be entitled
to conclude they didn’t have a
mind on account that they didn’t
have a brain in the same way as us.
• The ‘chauvinistic argument ‘is that
it appears very arrogant to assume
only the human brain and high
mammals can have a mind.
• A revised version of identity theory that
avoids the central weaknesses of IT.
• Mental states are functional states.
• Something is a mind if it functions
• This explains nicely why aliens or advanced
machines might have a mind although they
do not have a brain.
• As long as they posses a physical
mechanism that can play the same
functional role as neurons play it can be said
to have a mind.
• It can be organic, silicon, or glass fibres.
• The mind is similar to a software program
that can be run on any computer that has
the sufficient hardware to be able to run the
• Similarly, a functionalist believes that any
physical system that is able to run or
recreate the functional interactions between
neurons in our brain can have a mind.
• This supports the idea of artificial
• If we succeed in building a machine that can
play the same functional role as our brains,
then these machines must, according to
functionalism, have a mind.
• The Turing Test
• Invented to determine whether advanced
machines could have minds.
• Questions are asked by the tester via a
computer terminal and its the job of the
tester to determine whether the responses
are from a human being or advanced
• If the machine can be passed as human then
it can be said to pass the Turing test and
have a mind.
• Functionalists would accept that if a machine
could pass the Turing Test it could be said to
have a mind.
• Functionalism supports the idea that AI is
• J. Searle famous opposition to A.I
revolves around his criticism of
the Turing Test as a valid means
of establishing whether machines
• The Chinese Room Argument
• This states computers do not
need to understand language in
order to process information.
• Even if an advanced machine could
pass the Turing Test it wouldn’t
prove the machine had a mind
capable of understanding the
information it computes.
He argued that computers follow
programs and thus do not act
creatively or in unpredictable ways.
In order to have a mind, one needs
to be able to act creatively and
• Therefore, computers cannot have
• Computers cannot have feelings
and emotions. A thing without
emotions and feelings cannot have
• Therefore computers cannot have
• Find out more about J. Searles
The term ‘qualia’ refers to the
phenomenal aspect of mental states.
Frank Jackson describes as it as ‘the
itchiness of itches, the pangs of jealousy,
the characteristic experience of tasting a
lemon or smelling a rose’.
Our mental states and sensations and
have a characteristic, phenomenal
,feeling (qualia) to them. The smell of
freshly brewed coffee or the sensation
of running my hand over sand paper
carries with it a distinct phenomenal
It seems as if functionalism – and
perhaps any purely physicalist theory of
the min – does not provide a complete
account of what minds really are.
Paul and Patricia Churchland offer a very
radical alternative to theory of mind.
We should abandon the attempt to
incorporate mental states into our picture
of the world.
Mental states do not really exist.
They are nothing but complete illusions.
The illusion of mental states such as
beliefs, wishes and desires is caused by our
habits of speech.
In reality these beliefs, wishes and desires
are only neurons, synapses and
They believe that all talk of the mind since
the Greeks began it in 2500 years ago will
be redundant in the same way science has
proved that the world isn’t flat or that the
universe revolves around the earth.
If this theory is accepted the mind/body
problem has been solved as the mind does
Arguments against Eliminative
The first is that it appears very difficult
to deny we have any mental states at
As I write this I am aware of the idea
that I want to clean my teeth because
the coffee I drank 10 mins ago is
starting to taste bad.
Is that really an illusion?
Also if it is true that nobody believes
anything (since minds do not really
exist) how are we to believe that
eliminative materialism is true?
It appears any philosophical argument
presupposes that we have beliefs and
a mental life.