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The ‘Sensation Brain Process Identity Theory Essay

916 words - 4 pages

The ‘Sensation-Brain Process Identity Theory’ posed by J.J.C. Smart is the view that a sensation is a just a brain process. In the strict sense of identity a sensation and a brain processes are two names for one thing. Similarly, the one thing people refer to when they talk about ‘the morning star’ or ‘the evening star’ is Venus. There exists only one physical component to this world from which we derive other statements like ‘the morning star is the last star you can see in the morning.’ ‘The morning star’ happens to be Venus. A sensation happens to be a process. A brain process more obviously is also a process. When we talk about sensations or a brain process we are talking about the same ...view middle of the document...

If sensations and brain processes are not two things then neither can casually relate to the other because there is no other thing to causally relate with. The statement contains a binary predicate e.g. ‘Larger than’, ‘Left of’, or ‘Gave’. We cannot say Sam is ‘Left of’ Sam unless we are talking about two different people with the same name. Strict identity however is two names for one thing. So whichever individual thing (person) we are referring to with the name Sam could never be ‘Left of’ himself. This is because binary predicates work such that there must contain two different objects the statement to be true.
If tasting vanilla caused a particular brain processes then tasting vanilla and the corresponding brain process cannot be strictly identical. For strict identity theorist one could instead say it was the exposure to vanilla that caused a physical process. The physical process (identical with a corresponding sensation) is the effect the exposure to vanilla. The hypothesis contains enough objects to assert a binary predicate whereas the ‘taste of vanilla’ being the cause would not for identity theorist. We can then refer to this physical process by talking about a particular brain process or a person’s experience of exposure to vanilla. In both cases whatever report given on the exposure of the vanilla to the tongue would be a report of something that ‘is’ or happens to be in fact a brain process (Smart 145).
Smart’s “Objection 1” is in the form of an illiterate peasant example. “Any illiterate peasant can talk perfectly well about his after-images, or how things look or feel to him… yet he may know nothing about...

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