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Philosophy Essay 2

Philosophy Essay 2

This is the second philosophy essay I wrote. Keep in mind as you read that I am writing in response to a prompt in my class and am not for or against any of the ideas presented in the essay.

In this essay I will consider a thought experiment to be performed on chickens in order to illustrate philosophical behaviorism and mind-brain identity theory. The thought experiment I will be considering in the paper is as follows: I have been asked to help a research team determine whether chickens feel pain. I will explain what behaviorism is, what experiment I have chosen, and why that experiment makes sense for behaviorism. I will then proceed to do the same for mind-brain identity theory. I will then delve into an explanation of substance dualism and determinism and explain how a dualist would argue against determinism.

Philosophical behaviorism can be quickly explained as the tendency to act in a particular way under certain circumstances. The theory attempts to prove that you can know about another person’s mind states through the observation of their behaviors, and that sentences carry meaning beyond the intellectual. For example, take the sentence “Maren has a pain in her foot.” A philosophical behaviorist says that the sentence itself includes the experience of feeling pain in the foot, as a part of its definition. In order to determine the truth of the statement, a behaviorist would observe Maren for signs of pain like limping, rubbing the foot when seated, grimacing while walking etc.

A behaviorist would consider the thought experiment from the introduction and come up with an experiment like this: Several chickens are placed in a room. A scientist selects a chicken and

deliberately performs an action that would normally cause pain in a human being, to the chicken. The scientist watches the chicken closely for signs of pain such as making a noise or moving away from the source of the pain, and in comparison, with the behavior of the other chickens. This particular experiment appeals to the behaviorist because the question “Do chickens feel pain” seems to be a true or false question, but it is a question that can apparently be verified by the observation of the behavior of chickens.

Mind-brain identity theory is associated with the idea that a mind- state is a brain-state. Each mind or mental state, such as pain, is associated with a certain brain-state or a certain pattern of brain- processes. Therefore, if you experience pain by stubbing your toe, then you can be reasonably assured that when your friend stubs their toe, they have a similar experience of pain because the experience of pain is represented in the same way in the brain. For the mind-brain theorist, if the item or thing being studied has a brain that resembles yours, then you can be assured that they are not an empty shell and possess similar mind-states to you.

The chicken experiment for the mind-brain theorist then, is to measure via MRI the chicken’s neural response to stimuli that is intended to cause pain, and to compare that result to an MRI of a person who is in pain and see if the neural response is similar. Of course, there is the issue of how similar a chicken’s brain structure is to a human’s, I’ll leave that up to the scientists to explain. This

experiment is perfect for the mind-brain identity theorist because it relies on the comparison of brain-states to prove the experience of pain, since in this theory, a brain-state is a mind-state.

So far, I have explored two possible methods for determining whether chickens experience pain. The behaviorist would provide stimulus and observe the response of the chicken, and the mind-brain identity theorist would provide stimulus and measure the brain response via MRI to determine the results. Now I will transition to an explanation of substance dualism and determinism and provide an explanation of how a dualist may argue against determinism.

Substance dualism is the belief that mind states and physical states are completely different things. A mind-state for example can have the experience of pain or of seeing color; whereas an inanimate or physical object does not. A physical object, such as my desk, appears to experience physical states such as feeling warm or cold to the touch, or falling over. You would say to someone that your mind fell over. Another interesting idea to come out of substance dualism is the notion that because mind-states and physical-states are completely different things, they are governed by different laws, and therefore the laws of physics, which are physical laws, don’t apply to mind-states.

Determinism is the theory that everything that has happened or will happen in the future or is happening now, has already been determined. If you were to rewind time and then let it play out again,

exactly the same events would happen. In effect, you have no free will because everything has already been determined prior even to your birth. The laws of physics are considered deterministic by determinists, and they think that these laws completely decide what is going to happen.

A substance dualist would argue against determinism by highlighting the fact that mind-states are not governed by the laws of physics because they are categorically different from physical states, and are therefore governed by different laws. Since physical states are governed by the laws of physics which is the determinists’ argument, then mind-states, being governed by different laws, are not governed by the laws of physics and so are not deterministic in nature.

In this paper I have given a brief definition of behaviorism and mind-brain identity theory and explored how a behaviorist and a mind- brain identity theorist would design an experiment to determine whether or not a chicken feels pain. I have given an explanation of substance dualism and determinism and provided an example of how a dualist would argue against determinism.

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