Smart 11/17

In the article “sensations and brain processes” Smart makes very good argument against the belief of dualism. While he explores many different ideas and concepts one that I found interesting was Smart’s reference to Occum’s Razor. While he explains that dualism could be indeed the case it is a lot simpler to assume that it is not. I found the following passage to be a great illustration of the problem that we face if we choose to adopt dualism.

“Let us suppose that it is held that the universe just began in 4004 B.C. with the initial conditions just everywhere as they were in 4004 B.C., and in particular that our own planet began with sediment in the rivers, eroded cliffs, fossils in the rocks, and so on. No scientist would ever entertain this as a serious hypothesis, consistent though it is with all possible evidence. The hypothesis offends against the principles of parsimony and simplicity.”

I feel that this idea is also a basis for why we should not believe in many of the skeptical ideas that we vastly deceived about the state of the world. For example ideas that our lives could be an episode of the Truman show, an ancestor simulation, or that we are a brain in a vat are all in a sense irrefutable claims. However due the principle of Occum’s Razor many do not believe these theories.  I feel that this is a very important idea to consider in our basis for knowledge. Just because something cannot be disproved does not mean that we should believe that it may in fact be true. However I would not venture to make the  opposite claim that the absence of evidence means that something is not true.

What I also found interesting and confusing about the article is the necessity of need to define certain words .For example Smart feels the necessity to define how he is using the word “is” to mean strict identity.  For example like in class we discussed the difference between the factive and non-factive   “see” in class. “Seeing” something while tripping on acid is “seeing” in the non-factive sense.   I think that one of the reasons many of the concepts of the mind are non-intuitive to us naturally is the fact that much of the vocabulary to clearly describe the processes is non-existent. The vocabulary to describe these non-intuitive nuisances is only made in order to describe these points. After observing these problems I suspect that much of our viewpoints about the world are limited due to our limited vocabulary. For example while the “category problem” discussed in the Ryle reading is easy to understand by giving an example, the definition of the Ryle’s category problem is a lot harder to grasp. I suspect that many philosophical questions maybe be similar in nature. Some problems may be such no examples of natural phenomenon and no vocabulary has been created to explain the problem. If this is the case problems such as these may be very hard to define or solve.


1 thought on “Smart 11/17

  1. As to your statement, “just because something cannot be disproved, does not mean that we should believe that it may in fact be true,” I disagree. Don’t we have an obligation to consider it? Because we don’t know that its not true; if something is possible, it could be true. And if it could be true, then we should not ignore it – we have to consider it as a possibility. Because if we can conceive the idea of something, we need to come up with a way to disprove it or it could be true.

    For example, David Chalmers, a dualist, argues that he knows he is conscious. (just like Descartes stated, I think therefore I am.) However, everyone else, may not have this consciousness. They could be zombies, who act like humans but they don’t feel anything. Because this idea is conceivable, we are obligated to consider its implications. This could mean that there is a difference between a mental process and a brain process because we can imagine a machine or zombie without consciousness. Now, its probably not true, but it could be, and that is the important part in developing new theories and eventually leading to the ultimate answer.

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