Mind


On pages 148-155 of Naming and Necessity, Saul Kripke concludes his book by setting forth an argument against type-type identity theory (the view that that any given mental state is identical to a brain state). Kripke argues that a mental state (pain) cannot be identical to a brain state (C-fiber stimulation) because if the aforementioned states are identical, then they must be so necessarily; and since we can conceive of one state existing without the other, they cannot be identical. Below, I shall set forth a general argument (with explanatory comments) which demonstrates the basis of Kripke’s reasoning and then cite Krikpe’s example from the text (also with explanatory comments).

1. If X is a rigid designator and Y is a rigid designator, and if the statement “X is identical to Y” is true, then the statement “X is identical to Y” is necessarily true.

• An example of the above is “Mark Twain is identical to Samuel Clemens”. Since both of these names are rigid designators, then “Mark Twain is identical to Samuel Clemens” is true in every possible world in which these rigid designators pick out an individual. On the other hand, the statement “Mark Twain is identical to the author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” is composed of the rigid designator “Mark Twain” and the non-rigid designator “the author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”. While these two designators may be identical in the actual world, it is possible that someone else could have written The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Thus, the latter example of identity is not necessary.

2. X is a rigid designator.

3. Y is a rigid designator.

4. However, “X is identical to Y” is not necessarily true.

5. Therefore, “X is identical to Y” is not true.

Below is a reconstruction of Kripke’s specific example involving “pain” and “C-fiber stimulation”:

1. If “pain” is a rigid designator and “C-fiber stimulation” is a rigid designator, then the statement “pain is identical to C-fiber stimulation” is necessarily true.

• Kripke anticipates that some people will object that the identity statement above cannot be necessary since it is known a posteriori. However, Kripke points out that the statement “pain is identical to C-fiber stimulation” is analogous to other necessary identity statements that are known a posteriori such as “water is identical to H2O” or “heat is identical to molecular motion”. Besides this, Kripke demonstrates early on (pp. 35-37) that some necessary truths are known a posteriori (like certain mathematical proofs that require a great deal of calculation).

2. “Pain” is a rigid designator.

• Once again Kripke anticipates objections to the above premise. He asserts that “pain” is a rigid designator because it picks out what it refers to by an essential property (the sensation of painfulness). It is impossible to conceive of pain existing without the property of “feeling painful”.

3. “C-fiber stimulation” is a rigid designator.

4. However, “pain is identical to C-fiber stimulation” is not necessarily true.

• It is possible to conceive of a world in which one can exist without the other.

5. Therefore, “pain is identical to C-fiber stimulation” is not true.

I must confess that the above argument appears to be a powerful refutation of identity theory. It seems to me that the only way out of the conclusion is to either deny Krikpe’s semantics or argue convincingly that either “pain” or “C-fiber stimulation” or both are not rigid designators.

Are they listening?Do you ever wonder if kids “get it“?

Recently I have been examining my life and what kind of parent I have been so far. The results have been less than inspiring. My GPA in Parenting would be only slightly higher than the average GPA of those boy’s from Delta house… before the Toga Party.

Sometimes you wonder, “Am I doing the right thing?” “Do they understand?” “Am I getting through?” Especially now that they are teen-agers, I wonder, “Am I doing everything the best I can?” “Will they be scarred for life?!” or “Will they be okay in spite of my failings and poor parenting?” The angst of parenting…

Then from out nowhere comes a Bolt of lightning  that illuminates your self-imposed Apocalyptic scenario and fills your heart with hope. Hope that they “get it” and you are not a complete dismal failure as a parent (just a partial dismal failure). I had one of those moments today as I listened in on the raving and ranting of my teenage daughter. A bad day at school was compounded by her having a sore throat and not feeling too well. She was in rare form and far from being dismayed about her tirade I was completely ecstatic!

Why, you may ask, was I overjoyed to hear my teen-age daughter on the warpath? It was the subject matter that had me completely enthralled. I would like to quote her and let you hear what had me cheering her on. She was on a roll about what had taken place in one of her classes today (and probably more than just one of them). I have to preface these remarks by stating my children attend a Private Christian School. Here’s what she was going on about…

I’m sick of people not listening in class. All they do is go to school to socialize. Yeah, you have friends there, but class time is not socialize time unless you’re NOT doing anything as a class! They don’t care about their grades, which will be sad when they try and get into college because they won’t be able to. Then, they will blame it on other people, when really the only ones to blame will be them selves. They can’t even shut-up long enough to hear anything that is going on in class. I just want to tell them, ‘Why waste your parents money if you’re not going to do anything? Also, the teachers need more respect than that because the are spending their time to help us… when they could be doing another job for less hassle. If you want to socialize then go to a public school where at least you are not wasting your parents hard earned money.’”

Wow! You go girl! This is from my little girl? My little ‘freshman’?

Cha-ching! She gets it, she really gets it! Boo-yaa! Game, Set, Match!

This is not coming from a wall flower either, this little firebrand is outgoing and very social. Yet, she knows her goals and she realizes that the game began on the first day of class, this her freshman year. The clock is ticking and we are keeping score. From this point forward she is racing toward college and she can see that what she is doing now, does count. That is why she got so upset with her classmates today, their selfishness is not just hurting them but it hurts her and all the rest who are counting on good grades to help them get to college.

That’s the kind of argument that makes a parent proud!

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 I recently discovered – via this post on another blog – that Stephen Pinker (popular, Led Robert Plant would be proud!Zeppelinish hair-styled, psychology prof. from Harvard) has published yet another article arguing for a biology-based morality.  You can read the NY Times article here. 

As some of you already know, I have already posted on Pinker’s pernicious problem of a materialistic morality.  Although his most recent article is somewhat longer than his earlier article in Time magazine, his arguments remain the same.

Rather than rehashing my appraisal of his argument in this post, I invite readers to check out my earlier post, “Stephen Pinker and the Morality of a Meat Machine”.

You gotta love that hair though 🙂

DistractedHave you ever contemplated how much time we waste on meandering thoughts?  During any busy day, our minds become crowded with To-Do lists, Have-Done lists, and things you cannot even label because they speed by on the highway of your mind, forgotten as quickly as you thought of them.  Have you ever driven yourself to the store and wondered how you got there because your mind was not on the road, but you cannot really explain what distracted your mind for so long?  I have to admit that I have done this on several occasions.  In meditating on the thought life, I am starting to understand that this is a part of who we are.  Our thought lives reflect our self-discipline, or lack thereof.  Our brains become little more than pinball machines with thoughts darting back and forth with no real goal or focus.  This becomes a habit that we fall into.

 

Having an untrained mind is like a person that is trying to organize the closet.  They start well with the right intentions.  They arrange the shoes by type and color.  They pull out the old boxes to go through and put in their proper place.  But then something distracts them.  They see the closet floor needs to be vacuumed.  Then they see they might as well vacuum the entire bedroom, then the whole house.  As they are vacuuming, they see toys lying around that must be put up, and so goes the day.  At dusk they realize that the boxes are still lying in the bedroom floor, none of the clothes have been boxed up for the season and the only thing they accomplished was sorting the shoes.

 

However the first thing we must do to break a bad habit is to recognize it for what it is.  Is an uncontrolled mind such a bad thing?  I am coming to think that it is.  It shows disorder, lack of discipline, and it affects other areas of the life.  The example of the closet shows a person that cannot focus his or her mind on the task at hand.  The time has been wasted and cannot be gained back.  We see that having an undisciplined mind is a problem and we admit our failures.  But where are we to go from here?  Is there any help for those of us who have difficulty maintaining a constant stream of thought?  I Corinthians 10:5 states, “…bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” Our thoughts are to be brought under Christ’s control.  Does having a well-organized mind glorify God?  I say yes.  I am still meditating on this verse as I learn to control my thought life.  I know it will help organize my day, free myself from stress and most of all, glorify the One who gave me the mind to think.  Not to mention, I can drive to the store and not wonder why I am in the Laundromat parking lot instead.  Any comments or suggestions on this would be most helpful.