Reductive Materialism Essay

Reductive materialism is a ‘sub theory’ or a version of Physicalism - Reductive Materialism Essay introduction. It suggests that sensations of the mind correlate exactly to physical ‘movements’ of the brain. In other words, every thought or experience which occurs in your mind, can be found as activity in your brain. This does not mean however, that the mind and the brain are the same thing, just that they are both different experiences of the same thing. For example, a neuroscientist may be able to study your brain activity as you experience it in your mind. A problem with this theory when applied, is that two different people having the same thought, will have the identical brain activity. But the thoughts of one person are subjective to their personal experiences and the context which they attribute to that thought. This makes it very difficult to prove that there are set physical movements in the brain for every separate thought, as thoughts or experiences in the mind can differ ever so slightly. Reductive materialists have rebutted this critique, by stating that there are two different distinctions of thoughts, and they label these as the ‘type’ and the ‘token’. The ‘type’, refers to the thing which is shared by the two people, for example, they’re both feeling pain. The ‘token’, refers to the particularity of the type, so the subtle difference between the pain each person is experiencing. Therefore, the events in the brain will be of the same type, but of a different token, (one person may have C-fibres firing in their brain, while the other has B-fibres firing). Another flaw in the theory is it assume that our brains are all capable of the same movements, (as our brains are mostly identical), meaning that our minds are all capable of identical instances (tokens) of experience. This is unconvincing, because our thoughts result from personal experiences, making it impossible for others to feel the same. It also poses that our thoughts can be triggered directly from physical changes to our brain, which may lead to some sort of mind control. The argument also admits that there is some kind of intangible experience or ‘qualia’. However if these experiences are intangible, then they can’t be exactly the same as the functioning of the brain, which is a tangible substance. The Two Marys analogy demonstrates this dispute of reductive materialism, as once the Mary has learned something by an experience or ‘qualia’, then that experience can’t be a physical event in the brain.

Eliminative Materialism:

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Eliminative Materialism argues that everything we believe about minds and conciousness does not exist (including belief itself), on the grounds that it cannot be empirically proved. The claim is that the understood laws or generalisations we use when we use terms “of the mind”, are false. For example, if someone talks about their feeling of pain, then they would call this statement ‘Folk Psychology’, meaning that the words are just used habitually and don’t have any true meaning. They say that the problem is in the language we use to make sense of what we can’t prove. This idea however, is not consistent, as it disputes the belief in anything, meaning the belief of eliminativism in itself cannot be believed. Similarly, believing in Nihilism is contradictory. Another problem with the argument is that it assumes empirical methods of experiment are always accurate and consistent, when we know that this is not always the case, and some physical events in the world are not caused by physical substances. If all out beliefs and thoughts are brought down to scientific descriptions, then life loses all it’s value and feeling.

Biological Naturalism:

Biological Naturalism borders on dualism, as it doesn’t completely eradicate a possible non-physical state of the mind. It claims that conciousness has evolved over time, similar to the evolution of the brain, and is therefore a natural part of our physical bodies. To explain the difference between the brain functions and conciousness, the terms ‘micro’ and ‘macro’ are utilised. For example, if you stub your toe, on a micro level there will be C-fibres firing in your brain, and on a macro level you will experience the feeling of pain. A flaw with this is that it offers no explanation to the form in which the micro level experiences take, but it does acknowledge the presence of conciousness. In this way, the idea maintains a scientific explanation, without having to solve the mystery of the mind, which is seen as the main flaw in the theory. John Seale (the creator of the theory),
insists that with the progression of science, we will eventually be able to answer this.

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