A lively discussion has been going on over at Bill Vallicella’s website. I seem to be spending so much time over there, in such engaging company, that I am getting very little done in here!
One of the topics we’ve been grappling with is the physicalist view of the mind. As you might have guessed from previous posts, I hold the view that our minds are entirely grounded in the physical world: that all of our thoughts, memories, fears,imaginings, etc. – in short, our inner lives – are the result of the activity of our physical bodies, in particular our nervous systems. We are a long way from completing the scientific program that will exhaustively map subjective experience onto objectively measurable physical states and transactions, but I do believe, along with most scientists studying the problem, that the idea is sound, and the goal attainable, in principle at least. But this view, all but hegemonic among research scientists, has met considerable resistance in the philosophical community. A recent posting at Dr. Vallicella’s site sums it up:
Marvelously complex as it is, the brain is just another chunk of the physical world. Study it till doomsday with the most sophisticated instruments, map every cubic millimeter of it, establish detailed correlations between brain regions and types of conscious phenomena — and what do you accomplish? You learn more and more about a highly complex piece of meat.