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Mental States Essay

1306 words - 5 pages

Upon discovering that my friend, Roberta, has an extremely complex digital computer in her head I was perplexed as to whether Roberta has mental states. Under the assumption that in order to have mental states she must be have perception, sensations, emotions, beliefs, thoughts, purposes, desires, as well as a conscious self-awareness, and free-will, I came to the conclusion that Roberta does not posses mental states. Through the process of explaining my initial misconceptions concerning Roberta followed by her doctors arguments concerning her lack of a brain, inability to comprehend language, and to make independent decisions I will attempt to illustrate that she does not have mental states. Through her convincing imitation of human behavior, Roberta managed to fool me into thinking she was human. In conversation she not only discussed relevant topics, but also responded to me with appropriate answers in a feasible amount of time. For instance when talking about math, she appeared to struggle with difficult equations instead of finding immediate solutions as a calculator would. Since Roberta talked about her own preferences, decisions, opinion, ambitions, beliefs, and desires I assumed that she was capable of form these things. However her success in convincing me that she was human and had mental states does not entail that this was true. Since I could only observe Roberta's behavior and was unaware of the causes behind it my judgements were fallible. At this stage a methodological behaviorist would argue that Roberta's behavior is all that a second person, could know about her and therefore it does not make sense for me to discuss her inner states. Although at first this was the case, now that Roberta has been released from the hospital the cause and not just the effects of her behavior are known. An analysis of Roberta's inner states is made possible through the knowledge that her skull is filled by a digital computer that is programmed to control her movements. (356-357). The doctor that treated Roberta argued that her lack of a brain entails a lack of a mind, which is an essential factor to the possession of mental states. Therefore she is does not have any feelings, beliefs, or preferences. Armstrong's identity theory supports this statement through its claim that the mind is the cause of behavior. However, unlike the doctor this account for mental states is founded upon the belief that the mind is equal to the brain. This claim supports the idea that because Roberta does not have a brain, she does not have a mind. Meaning a person's mental states is identical to their physical brain states. This claim is problematic because even between human brains it does not hold true. In contrast, human brains vary widely in their task structure and organization and each individual brain can change over time. Although computers share this wide variation in how they are programmed to function, Roberta's computer lacks the ability to...

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