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Free «Philosophy of the Mind» Essay Sample

Following the philosophy of mind, physicalism can be explained as a worldview which accepts only physical properties of all things and no other properties. “Mental-event types are physical-event types; alternatively, mental properties are physical properties” (Kim, 1996, p. 59). Scientists are led to a denial of the possibility of free will or freedom on account of their belief in rigid physical laws, the modification in scientific ideas has certainly had a beneficial effect on the mentality of physicists. Our belief in free will and moral freedom rests on something very different from our views as to the nature of the structure of the atom. In point of fact, the reality of human existence depends not upon scientific or even philosophical theories, but upon our own everyday experience reflected in psychical things.

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Critics admit that we know in fact that we do make choices and that, although the range of possible choices is very considerably limited and determined for us, yet none the less within these limits our power of choice is real. “A systematic property-to-property relationship between mentality and our bodily nature is of fundamental importance to a robust physicalist position. This issue about properties arises also in debates concerning the possibility of "reducing" mentality to more basic physical/biological properties and processes” (Kim, 1996, p. 61). The very existence of law and of ordered society depends upon the universal recognition by men of this fact of human free will and moral responsibility. For example, Newton's physics was based on the conceptions of space, time, and motion, material point and force. All the phenomena of the external world could be described in terms of the location and motion in space of entities persisting and possessing continuous identity in time (Bevir 1999).

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Today, the phisicalism is strictly mechanistic and deterministic: it pictured the universe as a machine constructed by a sublime Intelligence and set in motion in accordance with rigid and exact mathematical rules, operating upon objective material entities in space. Such a mechanistic and rigid material universe is unacceptable to modern physical theories. But that does not mean that the physical universe can now be regarded as lawless: it is still described in accordance with exact mathematical and physical laws, but they are "statistical" instead of "causal". As to the significance of this, physicists and philosophers still differ profoundly among themselves; but it cannot be said that modern physics has destroyed the whole conception of causality or every form of determinacy. It has also been suggested that certain phenomena are describable in statistical terms and others in individual terms -- in other words. that statistical and "causal" laws are complementary languages, This is explained in the next paragraph. On the other hand determinism and indeterminacy may be regarded as a dialectical thesis and antithesis, awaiting synthesis. But we need not here concern ourselves further with the very abstruse arguments about the precise nature of causality and indeterminacy in atomic physics, in view of what has been said in previous sections about the undoubted necessity for the fundamental presupposition of causality in the scientific method of studying the universe (Kim, 1996).

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Physicalism states that there existed an objective physical world, external to the human mind, which behaved in accordance with immutable laws independent of the observer. ”Otological physicalism the view that there are no concrete existents, or substances, in the spacetime world other than material particles and their aggregates, has been a dominant position on the mind-body problem” (Kim, 1996, p. 212). Physicalism interprets the evidence amassed in atomic physics in another manner. There is no objective "existing situation", such as classical physics assumed, and no remote, passive, and static observer. Whether, as some physicists argue, that means that no such thing as an objective external world exists at all, and that only the observable is real, is very questionable. It has been denied by Einstein and Planck, for example, but what is certain is that no observation of the physical world is possible for us in which the observer is not an element which must be taken into account in science. The fundamental distinction between living and nonliving matter would appear to rest upon two things. First, a living organism is a unit in which the substances composing it are actively associated with one another within certain ranges of psychical conditions. It displays the characteristic of organization, so that the substances within it, just because they are part of the organism, exhibit a different behavior from that which they display either separately or in any inanimate chemical combination (Bevir, 1999). Such substances can exist separately in an inanimate condition, but in the living organism they interact collectively one with another. The gradual transition between physical things, indicated in the previous paragraphs, represents the first stage in what is commonly called the process of Evolution. It is now generally agreed among all reputable scientists that the history of this world from its earliest beginnings to the present time is one of gradual, cumulative development (Kim, 1996).

In sum, physicalism can be explained as a philosophical framework which defined the world as physical things only. Whereas physicalism assumed natural phenomena to be occurring independently of observation and without reference to it, quantum physics claims only to describe or predict phenomena relative to a clearly defined manner of observation or arrangement of instruments. Even predictions of probabilities can be made only with reference to the whole situation, including the apparatus used; and it is necessary to decide what aspect one wishes to investigate and to construct the instrument accordingly. Moreover, Heisenberg showed that there is always interchange between the observer and the object observed. The very act of observation affects the object, or at least affects the observer's knowledge of it. Thus, the isolated individual has vanished, and the primary importance of "personal encounter" is found in science just as it has long been recognized by Christianity to be a fundamental element in human experience.


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