How to be naïve about the mind

Date

2020-08-14

Authors

Dalbey, Bryce Daniel

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Abstract

This dissertation defends common-sense views of the mind by com- bating two widespread tendencies among philosophers. One such tendency is to eliminate: to resolve puzzles about the mind by denying the existence of or- dinary mental features. For instance, many think that while we can experience the shape, color, and texture of a baseball, we cannot experience the time it takes for a baseball to fall to the ground or the number of times it bounces — indeed, we cannot experience any temporal features. The other tendency is to inflate: to resolve puzzles about the mind by positing new and unusual mental features. For instance, it is almost universally accepted among philosophers that to allow for the rationality of agents, especially those like Lois Lane and Oedipus, we must posit guises (or senses, or modes of presentation) under which agents think. Against these tendencies, I argue that we can resolve puzzles about the mind without invoking new features or denying ordinary ones. In chapter one I confront ‘Frege puzzles’ concerning Lois Lane and show that there several distinct yet often-conflated issues at play. Moreover, the plausibility of such puzzles depends on an equivocation between them. Once disentangled, it is clear there are simple explanations of Lois’ rationality that do not employ guises. In chapter two I confront the Knowledge Argument, which aims to establish that Mary the color scientist learns a non-physical fact upon seeing red for the first time, and by extension that the mind is not physical. The most popular responses to this argument invoke special mental features, including so-called phenomenal concepts, knowledge by acquaintance, and certain mental abilities. I argue for a simple response to the argument which does not invoke any special mental features. On the simple response, Mary is simply misled into thinking she’s learned something when she has not. In chapter three I confront a puzzle about temporal experience that many take to suggest we do not experience temporal features. I argue that experiencing is a process rather than a state (more like running than like being tall) and that this distinction resolves the puzzle: we experience temporal features over periods of time but not in virtue of experiencing them at instants during that time (just as one runs over periods of time but not in virtue of running at instants during that time).

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