Key Terms of Mind/Body Problem

“Material object: An object (such as a stone) that has size, shape, mass, and spatial and temporal position, and that can exist independently of any conscious being.

Mental object: An object that is either a conscious being, that is, a being aware of things (such as a mind), or a being that cannot exist independently of some conscious being (such as a thought or sensation).

Material event: Something (such as the movement of an arm) that occurs over a period of time and consists of only material objects.

Mental event: Something (such as a dream) that occurs over a period of time and consists of only mental objects.

Material state: A condition or situation (such as an infection) of some material object.

Mental state: A condition or situation (such as a psychosis) of some mental object.

It is important to notice that, as characterized previously, the mental and the material are radically diffferent. Whatever is mental depends essentially on consciousness or awareness, but what is material does not. Furthermore, it certainly seems that nothing mental has size, shape, mass, or spatial location; such qualities seem only to characterize the material. The only characteristic that the mental and the physical seem to have in common is that both can have temporal positions. We say “can have” here because although all material objects and all human minds have temporal positions, it may be that there are minds that do not exist in time, for example, the mind of God. It should also be noted that the word ‘material,’ rather than ‘physical,’ has been used throughout. This is because by ‘physical’ we shall mean ‘part of the subject matter of the physical sciences,’ and it may well be that no all physical objects are material objects. An object which is a person is, if the dualists are correct, neither a mental object nor a material object; rather, it is a composite of both kinds of objects. However, such a being falls within the subject matter of physics. We are not, then, interested so much in the physical as in the mental and the material, although the physical is relevant because part of the debate surrounding the mind-body problem concerns whether physics, which supposedly can explain the behavior of all material objects, can explain all human behavior.”

(Cornman, Philosophical Problems and Arguments, 145)


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