Argumentative Research Paper Topic: Philosophy of Mind Sample Essay Paper

Philosophy of Mind Essay Sample 

1.The Mind/Body problem involves the following two positions: Substance Dualism and Materialism. In your own words, provide a concise formulation of the Descartes’ Substance Dualism. In your own words, provide a concise formulation of Materialism. In particular, explain the distinction between Reductive Materialism and Eliminative materialism. In light of the criticisms offered of both Substance Dualism and Materialism, which account is more plausible? Explain why. (700 words) 

Dualists generally stress on the essential difference between matter and mind. The dualists refute that the brain is equal to the mind while others assert that the mind is a creation of the brain. In his argument, Descartes states that the body and mind are two distinct substances that can exist apart. Descartes asserts that the mind is a substance that imagines, thinks, and reflects, therefore, it can be extended. The body is an extensive thing and therefore it cannot think. This argument on substance dualism relies on the claim that fundamental nature of the mind is thought while the fundamental nature of the body is extension and therefore, this duality of fundamental nature implies a duality of corresponding substances. In order to explain this theory, Descartes argued in the Fifth meditation "I enumerate the things a range of parts, I assign to these several parts certain shapes, sizes, movements, and position from one place to another and to these actions I assign durations.” Bodies can be described by predicates indicating experimental qualities and therefore bodies are fit objects that can be studied scientifically.

       This distinction between the body and the mind thus leads Descartes to stating the principle, "I am in attendance to my body not just….I am tightly joined so to speak….,” According to this statement, the even though the soul exists in the body, there is a part in the body, which exercises on its own more specifically than the rest of the body parts, which is in the inner parts of the body. When one wants to move his or her body, this violation causes this small part of the body to force the spirits towards the specific muscles, which in turn bring forth the effect.

         Materialism is the philosophy held by individuals who maintain that life can only be explained through the material things.  This philosophy argues with no account of awareness or spirit and therefore the people who hold to this belief argue that the universe is held together by pieces of matter working together under the subjection of the natural laws. The belief also relies on the theory of evolution since it denies the ideologies of special creation. Reductive materialism is the view that (matter) which is the material world is what is truly real and therefore, all the realities and the processes that are observed in the universe can only be explained by reducing them down to scientific components such as, molecules and atoms and all that can be described as matter. On the other hand, eliminative materialism is the view that people’s common sense and ordinary understanding of the mind is incorrect and that all or some of the mental conditions posited by common sense do not exist, therefore this view only acknowledges the physical states.

           The substance dualism account seems more plausible than the materialism philosophy despite the strong opposition on Descartes’ dualism. The scientific methods that have been used to argue against the theory have failed to prove or disapprove the ideas provided by the theory. In addition, Descartes succeeded in separating the human character into body and mind. Though the theory was not much successful in determining the interaction between the body and mind, none of the theories that have been put forward serve as a substitute explanation to Descartes’ account have successfully resolved the issue. The studies that have been raised to support or criticize the substance dualism account indicate that the interaction between the mind and the body is probable. Unlike the materialism theory, the Descartes theory is more probable if the reductionist positions of scientists is accepted then the physical things such as, the body and the brain among others do exist. In addition, the thinking activities that were observed by Descartes are completely carried out by the brain. Even though the substance dualism theory failed to explain the interaction between the body and brain and the pineal gland theory, Descartes’ theory generated little debate as compared to materialism account. It is without a doubt that Descartes theory has created a strong subject of debate within scholars and his influence will continue among philosophers for many years (Mohammed, 2012, p. 110).

 2. The philosophical problem of personal identity involves two positions offered by John Locke and David Hume. Explain these competing accounts as they are provided by the authors included in our course readings. Which account offers the most plausible response to the problem? Explain why. (300 words.)

          According to John Locke, the issue of personal identity is a matter of mental continuity and therefore for an individual A to survive a particular adventure it is sufficient and vital that there exists a time after the adventure a person B who psychologically evolved out of A.  This concept is based on the overlapping chains of direct psychological relations as those cognitive and casual connections between desires, beliefs, character traits, intentions among others. On the other hand, David Hume asserts that people have no understanding of a simple individualistic feeling they can label the self, in this case the self is the entirety of an individual’s conscious life. Additionally, a common abuse of the idea of individual uniqueness occurs when the notion of a soul is used as a supplementary to give people a stronger unified concept of totality of their conscious lives.

          The two accounts address the issue of personal identity from an empiricist viewpoint both discarding the self since it is a discrete body persevering over time. However, Hume’s view of the problem seems to approach the topic in a more observing manner than Locke’s hence his approach is more reasonable. Hume tries to understand and follow the psychological habits of humans before finding an explanation to the issue. Hume claims linguistic assent  to be damaged in calling people ‘the same ’who  are inescapably  subject to vital changes in mind and body  with time. Therefore, he does not take attributions of people’s identity for granted. A vital element in Hume’s account is that, regardless of how intricate a potential answer to the idea of a continuous uniqueness might be, he argues that this discrete essence of the "self” is a probable solution. His theory is plausible because it approaches the groundwork human occurrence of individual uniqueness on what he believes to be the foundation of its manifestation: ordinary linguistic notions and habits. His theory has based itself in comparison to ideas that extend the self as a psychological body, or those which place the memory as a vital factor in declaration, in not providing a distinct answer. Based on his examination, he describes his results and reunites them with other details concerning individuals. As a result, this leads to his opinions bearing in mind only the metaphysical principle of identity. His theory also allows room for self-criticism, which stresses the validity of his account as it deals with natural human proclivity with philosophical accuracy. Generally, Hume’s theory is clear, perceptive, and limited on in his usual identification with the human nature (Behrens, 2014, p.1).


Behrens, K. (2014, July 1). A Question of Hume's Theory of Personal Identity. Retrieved             February 9, 2015, from http://theoxfordphilosopher.com/2014/07/01/a-question-of-     Hume’s-theory-of-personal-identity/

Mohammed, A. (2012). A Critique of Descartes’ Mind-Body Dualism. KRITIKE, 6(1), 95-112.



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