Descartes And Searle Essay, Research Paper
As a psychology major, one of topics that I find most interesting in philosophy is the mind/body problem. This can be defined as the relationship between the immaterial mind and the material body.
Philosophers from all times have contemplated this problem; two of which are Rene Descartes and John Searle. It is my hope in this essay to present an overview of Descartes and Searle s theories as related to animal s minds and human minds while putting emphasis on their differences and similarities.
Ren Descartes is whom we owe the first account of the mind/body relationship to. Descartes can be seen as a duelist, someone who believes that the mind and the body are not only separate, but competent of independent existence. He is of the belief that animals can be considered extremely complex machines. However, he does not clearly state whether he is assured that animals do not have souls. Descartes states that even if machines having organs and shapes of specific animals could be created, we would have no real way to notice that these were not real animals.
However, if there were machines that resembled humans, we would always have two ways of knowing that they were not actual humans. The first way is that they would not have the ability to use words in sentences as we do. The second is that they would fail at certain tasks every time because they are not working out of knowledge but rather the disposition of their organs. The message that Descartes is trying to get across is that it is through the concept of machines that the true differences between humans and animals can be noted.
Furthermore, there is no other animal that can speak and communicate like humans. Descartes uses the example of a parrot to illustrate this idea. Sure parrots can be taught to speak words like humans, but they do not have the capacity to ever be able to formulate sentences and have a conversation like humans so. Therefore, they must not be made with a mind or soul, but must merely be complex machines.
For Descartes, it is the mind/soul that exists through time and change. Hoping to detach the existence of anything else aside from himself, an immaterial substance, Descartes considers a variety of ideas he has within his mind and contemplates whether he could have conceived them himself or not. Predominantly he finds that he has the idea of a perfect being. And upon further consideration, he feels that he could not have been the cause of this thought because it is impossible for an imperfect being to be the cause of the idea of a perfect being. Descartes is imperfect in that he is not all knowing (omniscient) or all powerful (omnipotent), and is most certainly mortal.
According to Searle, animals have conscious mental states, such as visual experiences, feelings of pain, and sensations of thirst and hunger, and of cold and heat. Searle came to this conclusion based on two theories: the common theory and his own interpretation of this common theory.
Both theories came out of a careful observation of his dog. Searle realized that his dog must have a conscious mind because his dog shared human behaviors. However, Searle took this theory and went further with it. In The Rediscovery of the Mind, Searle states this is his skin.. That if you pinch his skin you get behavior appropriate to pinching skin. Basically, he states that an animal s physiological make up and the animal s basic behavior are linked. Hence, animals do have conscious minds.
Searle differs from Descartes in that he is not considered a dualist. Searle believes that the mind is caused by the brain and that the mind is merely a feature of the brain.