All posts by Dianna Guo

Our Mind and Body

In the article, Ryle disputes Descartes’s belief. Descartes believes that a person’s mind and body is separated. Ryle is trying to dispute the official doctrine that he states like this: “With the doubtful exceptions of idiots and infants in arms every human being has both a body and a mind. Some would prefer to say that every human being is both a body and a mind. His body and his mind are ordinarily harnessed together, but after the death of the body his mind may continue to exist and function.” (Ryle, 23) He also regards this official doctrine as “ghost in the machine”. Ryle challenges Descartes’s belief by pointing out that the whole official doctrine is a category-mistake. Ryle does several illustrations such as: a foreigner visiting a campus guiding by a student. The library, admission office, museum are all shown to him by the student. But in the end he asks: “Where is the university?” The category-mistake can also be described as: I show my friend a picture of my family. I told her which is my dad, which is my mom and which is my sister. However, in the end she ask me: “ So who is the family?” Ryle points out that Descartes is mixing two things that are on different logical levels and he assumes that these two things are on the same logical level.

According to the official doctrine, I will be able to know my mental state right away. For example, if I hope some one is going to pick me up after class since it is raining and I forgot to bring the umbrella, I will know it immediately since this is my own mental state. Furthermore, no one else is able to know it directly since this is my own private mental state. When I was waiting for some one to pick me up I saw some one standing in the lobby. I heard this person saying that: “I hope some one is going to pick me up.” and “why I left my umbrella at home.” I also saw this person looking at his watch frequently, walking back and forth. I will think that he is in the same situation with me and he is also hoping some one will pick him up. But what I used to deduce his situation all based on public behaviors and I have no clue and will never be able to know what he is thinking in his mind. On the official doctrine, the mental states of other are forever hidden to me and I will have no way to get to know them. According to this, we can say that it is impossible to tell the difference between a man and a robot (Ryle 29) since all we see are the public side of the others and we can’t tell whether they are faking it or not. Just like the person I thought was experiencing the same situation with me might be faking to say those words and do those actions. If we say so, it will be impossible to define some one as idiots. It will be impossible for the hospital to tell whether this patient has mental disorder or not. Or can we say that the patient who we think having mental disorder actually does not and it should be us who have the problem?


Defining Knowledge and Refutation of Nozick’s Account

Knowledge has been defined by JTB (Justified True Belief) until Gettier argued that JTB account of knowledge was not sufficient enough to define knowledge using counter-examples. However, the propositions that Gettier put forward were still not sufficient enough to define knowledge. One of the philosophers, Robert Nozick, defends his response to the Gettier problem and explains the nature of knowledge.

Nozick states that the causal account of knowledge thus has certain plausibility and what we need to do is to formulate further conditions. The third condition that Nozick states is: If p weren’t true, S wouldn’t believe that p. This condition certainly excludes some of the cases described by Gettier but doesn’t rule out all the problem cases. One of the problem cases can be like if some one whose brain is stimulated by electrical or chemical stimulation, which brought him to believe that he is in the tank; he doesn’t know that he is actually in the tank. However, the third condition is still satisfied: if he weren’t floating on the water in the tank then he would not believe that he is in the tank. (348) Nozick also brings a fourth condition: If p were true, he would believe it. This condition rules out the person in the tank case since it is not true of him that if he were in the tank he would believe it. (349) Nozick also states that the subjunctive condition 4 also handles a case presented by Gilbert Harman: A dictator of a country is killed and all the media in this country report this news but later they all deny the story, falsely. Everybody except one person read the false denial and believed what was false. Only that person believed what is true. However he doesn’t satisfy the condition that if it were true he would believe it. Therefore, condition four is not satisfied.

However, Nozick’s account of knowledge is not perfect for defining knowledge. Let’s show all the conditions in Nozick’s account:
“1. P is true,
2. S believes P,
3. If P were not true, S would not believe P, and
4. If P were true, S would believe P.”

According to an essay written by Jack Scanlan, he states a problem case that cannot be ruled out by Nozick’s account. Let’s say Susan was walking in IKEA, a furniture store that has TVs placed in it, and Susan was not able to tell which TV is real and which one is fake. Instead of the real TVs and the fake TVs being exactly the same, the fake TVs are of the bulky CRT design and the real TV is a flat-screen. When Susan walked pass a real TV, she formed the proposition that “I am looking at a real, flat-screen TV.” When we apply this to the Nozick’s account we can get:

“1. The proposition is true – she is looking at a real, flat-screen TV.
2. She believes that she is looking at a real, flat-screen TV.
3. If she were not looking at a real, flat-screen TV, she would not believe that she was.
4. If she were looking at a real, flat-screen TV, she would believe that she was.”

According to Nozick, Susan knows that she is looking at a real, flat-screen TV. However, if she knows that she will know that she is looking at a real TV, which she actually does not know she is looking at a real TV. According to Jack Scanlan in his essay, Nozick’s account seems to allow false positives on non-knowledge if it is combined with demonstrable knowledge.
The Nozick’s account can rule out some problem cases that described by Gettier but it cannot exclude more complex cases. As a result, Nozick’s account of knowledge is not qualified to replace the JTB account.

Sorces (other than the readings):