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The Brain and the Meaning of Life 3: Minds are Brains

09/16/2012

Evidence that Minds are Brains
Neuroscience has discovered many correlates of brain states and mental states. In order to reasonably infer causation, we look at the use of drugs to alter the brain, thereafter alter the mind. This gives us good reason to think that the brain causes the mind. I would add the different levels of brain development in children, coupled with the progressive brain complexity in animals. All of these strongly suggest a cause and effect relationship.

Evidence for Dualism?
Thagard looks at near death experiences, seance stuff, and the afterlife, concluding belief in these can all be explained without having to postulate souls (brain deterioration near death, fraud). There is also psychic phenomenon, but these do not hold up to scientific scrutiny. Consciousness is the biggest evidence for dualism that Thagard says exists, and he plans to address it later in the book.

Who Are You?
Thagard thinks we need to stop thinking of ourselves as things, but instead as processes. I don’t really know what that all means, but I expect more things later.

This chapter will argue that the hypothesis that minds are brains has far more explanatory power than does its main competing hypothesis that minds are souls (607).

gaps become evidence against a theory only when an alternative theory arises that can fill them by explaining the phenomena. The view that minds are souls cannot explain creativity and high-level inference either, and lacks any prospects for explanatory progress (697).

A dualist could argue that all the empirical studies described above merely show that brain processes correlate with mental ones without brain’s being the exclusive cause of mind. In scientific reasoning, the best way to show causation rather than mere correlation is to introduce an intervention, showing that manipulating one factor leads to a change in another factor (701).

A quick review of how drugs affect the brain and thereby change mental states provides evidence that the connection between brain and mind is causal and not just correlational (705).

Proponents of the soul hypothesis cannot avoid the evidence that links such aspects of mind with brain processes, but they have to say that the brain hypothesis is not by itself sufficient to explain everything about thinking (730).

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