The middle ground

This week’s reading covers the works of Smart and his work on brain sensations. In the reading, he states how it has been claimed that sensations are just brain processes. He goes on to state how the most common claims that sensations are nothing “over and above” brain processes (Smart). He then states how many philosophers have presented objections to this claim. Smart counters these claims, by stating eight objections to these claims with replies about how they could be erroneous. One of the main purposes of Smart’s paper is to argue why taking a side of a dualist is incorrect. Because of his strong opposition to dualism he takes a stance in in favor of behavioralism, which states that the sensations are basically brain processes, yet he still finds this inadequate (Heil). The main reason why Smart is against dualism is because he finds it unbelievable that everything has some scientific reason based on the physical sciences supporting them. Therefore, Smart is able to find a middle ground where he states that reports about sensations are basically reports about brain processes.

The first objection he makes, which is the easiest to understand, states how someone who is completely clueless about science is able to describe different sensations that he feels including pain and embarrassment. I don’t really agree with this objection due to the fact that even though a person can be clueless about how something works doesn’t mean that the brain process is too complex for them to understand. Smart does do an excellent job by relating sensations and brain processes to the sight of lightning and understanding electricity. Smart counteracts one of the easiest objections to understand with multiple examples, and he makes it very easy to analyze why this type of objection just goes against human intuition. Another relevant objection that is presented is the fourth objection that basically states how after-images are not in physical space, brain processes are in physical space, and so an after-image is not a brain process.  The two objections that I have mentioned are of the stronger objections out of the eight that he presents, and that is why I felt the need to include them. His counter argument to this is how this is drawing an irrelevant conclusion and how the experience of an after-image is a brain process. Smart wraps up by stating that brain processes are an empirical claim, and yet they are not at the same time (Heil).

Before, reading the entire article written by Smart, I tended to side more with the dualistic reasoning. After reading his work, I found his replies to most of the objections to be very intuitive, and I side with his middle ground. One of his greatest replies was to the objection about how the present scientific theories about sensations are wrong, therefore trying to separate both things. He states how this does not show that they are unrelated and relates it to real life things. One of main reasons why I side with his belief is that although the article is hard to understand, he uses physical examples that are much easier to understand such as lightning and electricity and the morning and evening star. Trying to a find a classification for sensations is very difficult, and Smart manages to make great progress in this area.



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