All posts by Areeta Shah

You don’t actually have a body

Descartes didn’t believe in the “body” but believed in the “mind.” So everything but the mind is all due to your brain. The whole thought process came about when he realized that the mind, “a thinking thing,” could exist apart from its extended body. With that knowledge, came the theory that the body is a substance whose essence is thought. Hence my title, “You don’t actually have a body” because Descartes believed that the two were separate entities.

Property dualism is the basic idea of the theories under this heading is that while there is no substance to be dealt with here beyond the physical brain, the brain has a special set of properties possessed by no other kind of physical object. These are the properties that are characteristic of conscious intelligence (Churchland, 10). Epiphenomenalism is the view that mental events are caused by physical events in the brain, but have no effects upon any physical events(Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). For example, behavior is caused by the contraction of muscles and impulses from neurons. Therefore, the mind has nothing to do with it and it’s purely physical. Interactionism is the idea that matter and the mind “have casual effects on the brain, and thereby, on behavior(Churchland, 12).” This theory raised some issues because if the mind is an immaterialist thing then there is no way that it can have an influence on matter. The last dualist category is the elemental-property dualist. “The elemental-property dualist subscribes to the notion that mental properties interact with the brain(” So, on this point they agree with the interactive property dualist. But unlike the interactive-property dualist, the elemental-property dualist rejects the idea that mental properties emerge from the brain. Instead, they believe that mental properties are fundamental properties, something akin to mass or energy.


I personally agree with the ideas of interactionism because I also refute the idea that the mind is immaterial. Although it has no physical traits, I think that if something has an influence on another thing, it should be considered as a materialistic thing. Scientifically, physical objects are those that can be affected by physical forces. To me, the mind definitely has an influence on things like behavior. There is no way that we aren’t using our minds to act the way we are. How could we all react differently to the same stimuluses’ if “we only are responding to behavior with matter?” If we didn’t use our minds, then we should all have the same behavioral responses in the same situations. Our mind is what changes it up because the mind does have an influence on matter.


Paul Churchland, believed that neuroscience needed to be intertwined with psychology when it came to philosophy. Henceforth, the American philosopher explains how folk psychology may be false.


You Can’t Sit With Us.

Duncan Pritchard talks about Contextualism in the 15th chapter of his book, “What Is This Thing Called Knowledge.” Contextualism is this fascinating theory where the key to resolving the skeptical problem lies in recognizing that knowledge us a highly context-sensitive notion (Pritchard, 176).  Everything is relative to the statement said such as, shape, size, color, geography, etc. The idea of knowledge shifts depending on outside factors.

For example, the fact that a refrigerator may be empty has the connotation that it is empty of food. However, the refrigerator isn’t empty of air or light. Depending on what exactly you are thinking or to whom you are speaking to, the mind works differently. For me personally, I would think that the refrigerator is empty of the foods that I like. Another example that Pritchard uses is a table being flat. If a table is flat, there is a chance that there are no dents but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any air bubbles, bumps, or ridge. For me, a flat table can’t be made of wood because I think of glass when I think of a flat table and not the wood table in my backyard that gives me splinters.

My title is obviously from the infamous movie, Mean Girls. This movie is about four popular girls in high school that basically controlled the atmosphere of an entire school based off of their social status. But when using contextualism, what exactly makes a person popular?  In the area that these girls lived in, we can start by the physical and monetary backgrounds. All four of them are beautiful and were able to afford many expensive items. What defines them as being beautiful? Where these girls were from, being skinny and wearing skimpy clothing is what made them stand out from all the other people. But now if we were in Somalia, the women who are beautiful are those who keep themselves conserved in full body robes and headpieces and were able to dance well with a good layer of fat on them. These same four girls wouldn’t even be looked at twice in a positive way if they lived in Somalia. Contextualism is a valid theory because saying someone is beautiful really does depend on outside factors. In this specific example, geography plays a huge role when describing the adjective, “beautiful” and how it ties into popularity.

Now just because I agree doesn’t mean that there aren’t other arguments against this theory. The first is skepticism, and the second is Mooreanism. Both skeptics and Mooreans maintain that the standards for knowledge do not shift. (Tim, ‘Contextualism in Epsitemomlogy’). For skepticism, there is no support that for everything that you do in the world you live in and there is also no support that you aren’t in a deceived world. Skepticism has nothing to do with outside influences like contextualism and neither does Mooreanism. Mooreans often take a different tack and try to show how we can know the denials of skeptical hypothesis even though we are unable to tell such cases apart from counterpart non-deceived cases(Pritchard, 175).

Contextualism is really just a response to the skeptical problem in a way that is affected by outside influences and circumstances. There are many factors taken into consideration when making an argument. An argument about something in one topic may not work somewhere else with someone else. Everything is relative and knowledge is a radically context-sensitive notion. I agree with contextualism and I believe that almost everything one person says must be said to a certain audience to be valid.

Other Sources:

Contextualism in Epistemology (Tim Black):