Materialism Definition Issues



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Materialism

  • Definition

  • Issues

  • Early speculations

  • Metaphors

  • Localization

Materialism

  • Doctrine that thought and behavior can be reduced to physical – typically body

  • Usually that thoughts are nothing more than bodily behaviors

  • But depends heavily on metaphor

Issues

  • Mind-body

  • Can all thought be reduced to material substance -- Descartes?

  • Implications for free will

  • Localization

  • Complexity of matter

  • Is thought related

  • How to avoid panpsychism

  • Metaphors

Early speculations

  • Well known from ancient times

  • But little knowledge of how they worked

  • Speculation about nerve juice, vital forces, etc.

  • Harvey and circulation of blood

The Metaphors

  • Natural spirits

  • Motion

  • Vibrations

  • Muscle

  • Electricity

  • Magnetism

  • Computers

  • Connectionist

The Metaphor of Natural Spirits

  • Body was inert and animated by spirits

  • Greek and medieval creation

  • What gives life to living things

  • Minimal speculation about how worked

Finding the Life Force

  • Living matter is entirely different from physical

  • Principle of life must be internal to bodies

  • Living bodies were self-organizing and active

  • Also Cartesian dualism

The Motion Metaphor

  • Based on work of Galileo where motion is crucial

  • Bodies in physical world show motion

  • Then why not thoughts – prior to Descartes?


The Vibrations Metaphor

  • Based on Newton

  • Action at a distance

  • The ether

  • Advantage of linking psychology to physics

Electricity

  • Much speculation in 18th Century

  • Descartes’ ideas of reflexes

  • Galvani’s frogs

  • Organic battery

  • Volta’s suggestion that frog leg conducted electrical impulses

  • Bois-Reymond (1818-1896)

  • No more vital forces

  • Now part of science

Magnetism

  • Idea that magnetism was related to mental illness

  • Mesmer (1734-1815)

  • Magnets could cure mental illness

  • Led to hypnosis

Information Processing

Connectionism

  • Computer metaphor

  • Neurons form complex interrelationships

  • Can be modeled on computer

The Localization Issue

  • Idea that specific mental functions are localized in particular parts of the brain

  • Phrenology

  • Neurological models

Phrenology

  • Gall (1758-1828)

  • Localization

  • Brain grows with function

  • Can be read off via bumps on head

  • Spurzheim (1776-1832)

  • Collaborated with Gall

  • Populaizer

Neurological Models

  • Broca (1824-1880)

  • Understand but not speak

  • Left frontal lobe

  • Considerable investigation

  • Wernicke (1848-1904)

  • Language comprehension deficits – left temporal lobe

  • Fluent but meaningless speech










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