All posts by Fernando Herrera

Dualism Problems

When one reads Churchland, it becomes very easy to see why Dualism has been the dominant theory of mind for most of western history. Humans like to think that the mind as a very complex object, especially in comparison to the physical body. After reading, Churchland’s main points about Dualism, I completely disagree with the view.  I believe that the mind is not a nonspatial thinking substance, but is an integral part of the human body that is connected to it physically and chemically. Churchland picks a similar stance when comparing two of the most popular types of Dualism, Cartesian Dualism and Popular Dualism. Cartesian Dualism, although an interesting theory, is very flawed. I agree with him when he states if the mind is truly nonphysical, it could not really control the physical aspect of your body. I found the animal spirit theory to be a creative solution to that problem, but the theory of animal spirits is much too weak to allow Cartesian Dualism to be the most relevant and popular form of Dualism. Popular Dualism makes much more sense to a person who is ambiguous about their belief in Dualism. The most interesting part of this branch of Dualism was the energy section. I found the link between modern scientific concepts such as E=mc2 to be very interesting as it is always nice to see philosophical concepts have some relation with modern day science. Popular Dualism is a much more credible theory since it states that the mind is actually part of the physical body as it is inside the head. The beginning of the reading states how Dualism is a theory that is very popular with many of the world’s most popular religions, and Popular Dualism gives a reason why this is true.  The reason why it is so highly esteemed is due to the fact that Popular Dualism supports the possibility that the mind might survive the death of the body. This concept is very comforting to many people, and it further adds to any popularity that Dualism may garner. The subject of Property Dualism is also mentioned, and it basically states that the brain has a special set of properties that no other kind of physical object possesses.  This theory leads to concept to epiphenomenalism. This theory states that not only one’s actions are determined by physical events in the brain, but physical events in the brain also cause desires, decisions, and volitions. This is a very radical theory as it is basically stating that most of human behavior is just controlled by the brain and not mental states. This is why Churchland further describes interactionist property dualism stating that mental properties do have effects on the brain and behavior. This difference with the previous type of popular dualism makes much more sense, as it seems very illogical to myself for mental properties to not have any type of effect on behavior.

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.



Responses to Agrippa’s Trilemma

In this week’s reading, one of the main topics covered regards justification. Pritchard’s chapter over justification has to do with the enigmatic nature, problems, and responses to the problem. Agrippa’s trilemma is three alternatives regarding the structure of justification, written by an ancient Greek philosopher, Agrippa. The trilemma states that: Our beliefs are unsupported, or an infinite chain of justification supports our beliefs, or a circular chain of justification supports our beliefs. Agrippa presents three rather bleak alternatives to what justifies our beliefs as they “imply that we aren’t really justified in holding our original belief” (Pritchard 33). The three epistemological responses to Agrippa’s trilemma are Infinitism, Coherentism, and Foundationalism.

The first response, Infinitism, is what the name implies, and it states that an infinite chain of justification can support beliefs. The second response is Coherentism, and it states that a circular chain of justification can justify a belief. Coherentists say that justification for one’s belief is related to the other beliefs one holds, or the “general world-view” that one holds (35). This is a much more logical theory than Infinitism as it more reasonable to have beliefs justified by the way that one experiences the world. The interesting part of Coherentism is that a person’s justification can be identical to another person’s justification except that the justification will be used for different beliefs. For example, imagine that there are two neighbors in a neighborhood. One of the neighbors accidently fires a gun in his backyard, and the other neighbor has recently murdered someone. When each neighbor sees a cop park in the middle of both his or her houses, the first neighbor will use his observation to justify his belief that the cop has arrived because he fired a weapon while the other neighbor will use his observation of the cop to justify his belief that the cop is coming to arrest him. Ironically, it turns out the cop is just visiting someone else in the neighborhood. This example is a perfect depiction of Coherentism, yet it also points out that even though we have a tendency to form “beliefs in a certain way, we shouldn’t necessarily form them that way” as they can be erroneous (36).

The final response to the trilemma is Foundationalism, and it is the most widely accepted theory. Foundationalism states that a belief can be justified without being supported by any further beliefs. Classical Foundationalism states that some beliefs are frankly self-justifying. The main problem with Foundationalism is setting the requirements for foundational beliefs too high or too low. If some middle ground could be set that wouldn’t compromise the validity of Foundationalism, it would become an infallible theory. I find it to be the most plausible out of all three as it truly does make sense that there are beliefs that can be self- justifying. This fixes the problem of a circular or infinite chain of justifications as it allows certain justifications to be the only justification needed for a belief, and it makes justification less confusing than Coherentism or Infinitism. It will be much easier to modify Foundationalism than to ever use Coherentism or Infinitism as a way to justify a belief.

The Quest of Defining Knowledge

The challenge of defining knowledge has been plaguing epistemologists and philosophers since the origins of epistemology. There are two methods of classification for the definition of knowledge, methodism and particularism. Pritchard states that most epistemologists “have followed Chisholm in opting for particularism instead” (Pritchard 22).  Particularism is much more sensible than Methodism as it is much easier to produce a criteria for knowledge once you have identified a particular instance of knowledge.

Until 1963, the tripartite definition of knowledge had been relatively unquestioned and accepted as the definition of knowledge. That is until the tremendous epistemological impact of Edmund Gettier’s work. If the Gettier case presents a consistent counter-example to the JTB account of knowledge, then the JTB account of knowledge is not a valid definition of knowledge. Almost all epistemologists agree that Gettier disproved the justified true-belief conception of knowledge (Hetherington). According to Gettier, one could have a justified true belief and yet still lack knowledge as one can get lucky (Pritchard 23). The easiest example to understanding the Gettier case is case one about Smith and Jones. Gettier’s conclusion, “It is not the case that if S believes that P, is justified in believing that P and P is true, then S knows that P” is very easy to understand (Gettier). Due to the fact there is no universally accepted definition for knowledge, epistemologists will keep debating which definition they support.

The outside source I used talked about epistemologists use of Safety+.  Safety + states that a truly belief is safely formed “given how it has been formed and given the surrounding circumstances in which it has been formed, it would have only been formed if true (Hetherington). Although there is much debate on the concept of Safety +, the concept of Safety + generally supports the Gettier case. This is due to the fact that Smith had not formed his belief as true due to the fact that he overlooked facts that would have made the belief true (Hetherington). As previously stated, due to the fact that the Gettier example lacks safety, it cannot truly be defined as knowledge.

The counter arguments to the Gettier cases criticize the fact that the cases rely on the false principal that false propositions can justify one’s belief in other false propositions (Feldman). Those who argue against Gettier’s examples say that a proposition can only justify another proposition if it is true (Feldman). If more epistemologists were to agree with views like Feldman, the JTB account for knowledge would become the most accepted view. Defining knowledge becomes an almost impossible task, as the definition of what knowledge truly is, is rather subjective. This is because arguments can be made for any definition of knowledge.

I agree with the conclusion Pritchard ends the chapter with. I do not think that there will ever be a widely accepted definition of knowledge due to the abundance of counter examples to theories, and because knowledge of what knowledge is almost impossible to ascertain. Will knowledge ever have a perfect dictionary definition? Not in the sense in which epistemologists desire.



Hetherington, Stephen “Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.” Knowledge []. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Sept. 2014.