Mind-Brain Identity

[ I1 ≡ I2 ]

§1: classification

§2: descriptive analysis

the relation between mind and brain is considered a true identity of the sort exemplified by the equation: 'the morning star' = 'the evening star' & 'the evening star' = 'the morning star'. both of these phrases refer to the same object, the planet Venus, which is obviously identical to itself.

§3: logical path from absolute philosophy

the inquiring neutral skeptic who ends up as a mind-brain identity theorist must deny that there is an I3 and assume or conclude that 'I1' and '12' have the same referent.

§4: critique

the claim that the relation between the I2 and the I1 is one of total identity makes mind-brain identity theory an extreme form of naturalism. this theoretical perspective has a number of distinctive features. among the more obvious are:

§4.1: the identity of referent problem

since this is a linguistic issue, I2 will address it separately in VE and in HE to avoid the possibility that different grammatical conventions may promote different evaluations of the claims of mind-brain identity theorists.

§4.1.1: vernacular english

even in VE, it is difficult to argue that 'I' and 'my brain' have the same referent; and, obviously, where 'I' is used to refer to the whole person, they do not. furthermore, 'I' is the only means I have to refer to I, this first person awareness; so, unless mind-brain identity theorists have somehow banned this useage (as, for example, when a phenomenologist is bracketing everything but awareness of ... whatever), I am generally not using 'I' and 'my brain' interchangeably. they just don't have the same referent.

perhaps, when mind-brain identity theorists claim that 'I' and 'my brain' have the same referent, they really mean that there is a useage of 'I' where I, this first person awareness, use 'I' to refer to the 'seat' of awareness. however, it was not always believed that the brain was the seat of awareness; and, while there may have been a brief period of time in psychophilosophical history when 'set of awareness' had the same referent as 'the brain', that day has long passed. it is now thought that the first person awareness and sense of self are generated by a specific portion of the brain (by those who assume the first person awareness and sense of self are generated solely by their neurological correlates); but, which portion of the brain is that? opinions have differed. in his presentation at the second Tuscon conference, Chalmers listed no less than 20 candidates.1

unless one assumes an orwellian grammar that is retroactively self-redefining, claiming that 'I' and 'my brain' (or 'the seat of awareness' or some other third person phrase) have the same referent is highly problematic.

§4.1.2: humanese english

it would be extemely difficult, perhaps even impossible, to present a first-person argument for mind-brain identity in humanese english.

'I2' is the pronoun by which an instance of phenomenal awareness or an instance of the first-person perspective refers to itself. this self-referencing self-designation doesn't change over time.

'I1' is more like a variable than a constant. I2 may use 'I1' to refer to the body as a whole or some portion thereof; my toe, for example, whenever I2 say 'I2 experience pain' when I1 have located furniture in the dark.

in the present context, I2 might be inclined to use a specification of I1 (eg.'I1, the seat of awareness'); and, would easily accept that the referent of 'I1, the seat of awareness' would change over time. I2 would expect that scientific research would eventually discover the neurological feature(s) that are designated by this phrase; but, it is unreasonable to argue that 'I2' and 'I1' have the same referent just because the referent of 'I2' remains constant and we will eventually figure out what portion of the brain 'I1, the seat of awareness' designates.

in HE, it would be difficult to argue that 'I1' and 'I2' have the same referent, since they are defined as having referents of different reality types. it is certainly true that one task of the inquiring neutral skeptic is to identify its origin; but, rather than the I2 being a state of the brain, the identification between 'brain' and 'seat of awareness' is a state of the I2 --- a state of its knowledge, information and belief.

§4.2: the zombie problem

it is hard pressed to distinguish a human individual from a zombie.

a zombie in the philosophical sense is exactly like a human being except that it has no conscious experience; so, when some naked ape steps forward and says 'I0 am a human being because I2 have conscious experience', the mind brain identity theorists reply 'hmmm. you purport to distinquish yourself from the zombies by claiming to have something called conscious experience which we know is nothing more than a brain state, which zombies have; therefore, you are a zombie'.

it's absurd; but, is it philosophy?

§4.3: double language

mind-brain identity theorists have made a notable contibution to psychophilosophical thinking in their advocacy of the double language. however, the automatic assumption that terms in the neurological language correlated with terms in the mental language have an identical referent seems highly questionable.


[1]: Chalmers, David. 1998. On the Search for the Neural Correlate of Consciousness. Toward a Science of Consciousness II: The Second Tucson Discussions and Debates. MIT Press. originally presented April 1996. fulltext [Back]