Saint Thomas Aquinas, famous philosopher and theologian of the thirteenth century, is known for adhering to a worldview very dependent upon Aristotle’s philosophy. Though the task of reconciling Aristotle’s philosophy with Aquinas’ proved difficult, he was very thorough and well argued in it. One of the biggest problems Aquinas ran into during this attempt to make his views compatible with Aristotle was that of life after death.  Aquinas made arguments against Aristotle’s idea that the soul is mortal, among which include the idea of concept abstraction and the necessity of unity between body and soul.

            Among Aquinas’ weaker arguments for the immortality of the soul is that of desire. This argument essentially states that because no human desire is in vain, that the desire to live on after death will not either. This argument does not come with great support other than the belief that God does not leave any desire unanswered. A stronger argument comes when Aquinas alludes to concept formation. Aquinas believed that because humans are capable of thinking of ideas apart from material substances, that souls were also able to live apart from the body. For example, we can think of the Pythagorean theory as an abstract concept without seeing it being used to find the length of a hypotenuse. Therefore, the soul can live on without the body because it does not need the body to exist, just like ideas do not need material bodies to be realized.

 

            Aquinas and Aristotle’s views differed greatly on the nature of life after death. Aristotle believed the soul to be the “formal cause” of the human body, that which makes a human namely that. While Aquinas agreed on this account, one thing the two philosophers did not agree on is the permanency of the soul. Aristotle believed the soul was mortal; that it dies with the body. To reconcile this Aristotelian notion of the soul with the Christian doctrine that souls are immortal, Aquinas needed to provide a convincing argument as to why Aristotle was wrong.

            Aquinas asserted that the soul could live on after death, and to understand this claim we must first understand how he differentiates between different substances. Aquinas believed there to be “substances” and “subsistents”.  The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains this very well:

            A subsistent is something capable of existing on its own, not in another. But that capacity to exist own its own is not distinctive of a substance. A chair subsists. But on Aquinas’ account, it is not a substance.  […] A substance, on the other hand, is something that is both subsistent and complete in a nature—a nature being an intrinsic principle of movement and change in the subject. A detached human hand, while subsistent, is not a substance because it is not complete in a nature. A human hand is defined functionally as part of a human substance. A detached human hand is the remains of a human hand properly speaking, and is only called human analogously. So it is subsistent but not a substance. (McInerny, SEP)

 

We can conclude from this that a soul is a subsistent. While it can exist on its own, it is not “complete in nature”, as its complete nature is to be the form of the human body. Likewise, Aquinas believed that the human body took on a “subsistent” state after death, and after a time the two would, out of necessity, be joined together again in resurrection of the body into the afterlife. In this light, Aquinas does a fairly good job reconciling Aristotle’s belief that the soul is the form of the body. Aquinas uses this idea to contend that they cannot exist long exclusively, and must be joined together even after death.

            While Aquinas’ first two arguments explored above are not extremely convincing, his third argument proves to be fairly persuasive. Aquinas fails to explain the crux of the matter in exactly how the body and soul are resurrected, but for his time in the thirteenth century made great leaps in order to construct a more compatible bridge between his theological beliefs of life after death and Aristotle’s philosophical convictions of the soul dying with the body. While these views do not hold up well with contemporary philosophers who want explanations of casual interaction, Aquinas’ explanation provided rather convincing evidence of the soul living on after death for his time.

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Most theories of the mind held today are materialistic. While this may be true, consciousness seems to be a problem that materialists cannot solve. Consciousness is the ability to truly experience what is happening in the world, another name for it is “qualia”. It would seem that by accepting the fact that there is such thing as consciousness that this would only lend itself to a type of Cartesian Dualism. Many theories of the mind attempt to account for consciousness in various ways, and through exploring them we can make an effort to understand how the consciousness of human beings operates in relation to the mind. The truth of the matter is that a widely acceptable theory of consciousness eludes contemporary philosophers. In his book Philosophy of Mind, John Heil explores the many ways both dualists and materialists attempt to explain consciousness. Here I will focus on the prominent theories of today.

In terms of philosophy, theories of mind have come very far since Rene Descartes. Philosophers (along with scientists and psychologists in modern times) have seemingly explored all avenues possible as to how our mind works. As of late, the most widely held views of the mind are mainly materialistic, that the mind is reducible to physical events in one way or another, depending on the theory of course. Materialism has certainly struggled through and evolved from many problems concerning the mind, but it seems to lack the ability to explain consciousness. The problem of consciousness, to be clear, is how we can explain the existence of sensory experience, especially when we cannot find any physical “consciousness” itself? Surely we are aware that we are conscious of what is going on around us, but what makes us aware of that? There are two common ways to discuss consciousness, the first being creature consciousness. This concerns what a sentient creature is conscious. This would type of consciousness presents itself when an animal (humans included) is “awake, alert, and aware of the goings-on in its environment” (Heil 162). This type of consciousness is generally uncontroversial, as it is merely concerning the state of being conscious or unconscious. The second type of consciousness is called mental state consciousness. This second type is much more controversial and difficult to explain. It refers to how things seem rather than what is immediately apparent to you. This type of consciousness “has a phenomenology: there is something it is like to be in that state, something you might have difficulty articulating, but something you recognize immediately: you know it when you experience it” (Heil 163). From here forward, when speaking of consciousness, this is the type it is referring to. It is fruitful to explore how different theories attempt to explain the latter type of consciousness, but it must remain in the back of our minds that there is no clear answer as to how to explain it in relation to reality.

Dualistic theories of the mind are fairly easy to grasp when speaking of consciousness. Substance Dualism, the theory that there are two different kinds of material, physical and mental, explains consciousness fairly well if you adhere to such a conjecture. By asserting that there are mental and physical properties of the human experience, we can explain the fact that we cannot know the nature of consciousness in terms of physical matter. Other similar approaches to understanding the mind include epiphenomenalism, parallelism, and occasionalism, among others. These views have their differences, but all essentially derive from dualism. However, the problem with these theories is that they put the mind “above” the body, thus separating it. By separating the mind and body, we cannot firmly grasp the causal interaction between the two.

Better avenues to explore in explaining consciousness, if we wish to comprehend it in scientific terms, are the views of materialists. Functionalism, usually a materialist theory of the mind, but not always, holds that the mind is the way the brain works. To explain consciousness, functionalism maintains that physical states and mental states combine, which form consciousness. For example, a conscious pain-state in a functionalist view would go as follows, “You would be in a state brought about by tissue damage, or pressure, or extremes of temperature, and one that itself brings about a range of characteristic ‘pain responses’, behavioral and mental: you cringe, you form the belief that you are in pain, and you acquire a desire to take steps to alleviate the pain” (Heil 164). Thus, the functionalist explains consciousness by telling us the causal interaction between mental and brain states. This does not clarify consciousness sufficiently, however. Surely there is more to consciousness than the causality between awareness of reality and the physical goings-on of the brain. There is a feeling you have when you are in a certain brain state, there is a qualitative dimension, or “what it’s like”, to be in it. Another problem of consciousness in reference to functionalism is that of “emergence”. It is easy to see how “by putting together molecules in the right way, you get a liquid. But how could you get consciousness from arrangements of nonconscious material particles?” (Heil 172).  It is very difficult to grasp a situation in which being conscious of how you feel arises, “emerges”, from brain and mental states, which seem to not have this in their own essence. So it seems that functionalism cannot satisfyingly explain consciousness.

An idea worth mentioning, while not widely accepted, is that of Panpsychism. This theory holds that rather than qualia emerging from material that does not possess it, that qualia is included among properties of objects perceived. Pansychism argues that we perceive objects with consciousness included in that perception. If we feel sad when we see a certain image, it is because that image holds that conscious state. While this is not a commonly recognized view, it seems to better explain consciousness of human beings.

Representationalism is a prominent theory of the mind in contemporary philosophy and science. There are different forms of Representationalism, but the theory as a whole maintains that the mind uses symbols to represent thoughts, and those symbols are manipulated by the brain in order to result in an output. For example, the thought of wanting a drink of water would be represented by a symbol, put through a program, outputting the symbol for getting a glass of water. The representationalist regards consciousness as a representation,  “Compare dreading an upcoming examination with experiencing undirected dread-angst. Your dreading an examination is apparently representational: your dread has an object, the examination. But angst, unfocused dread, appears not to be representational, not to have an object” (Heil 176). A representationalist believes that all conscious states are representations of something in the material world. This is all seemingly fine for things that originate in the material world, but what of dreams and hallucinations? While adherents to this theory would assert still that hallucinations and dreams are also purely representational, it seems that they falls short here. Even in purely material ways does this theory fall short. Unless Representationalism conforms to a sort of panpsychism, it is questionable as to where qualia of experience, thus consciousness, emerges from.

Consciousness is undoubtedly one of the most difficult questions to grapple with in the philosophy of mind. No matter what theory of mind we turn to, Substance Dualism, Functionalism, Panpsychism, or Representationalism, we run into many problems. Unfortunately, it seems that this problem will not be easily solved. Some believe that it is impossible to solve without a complete paradigm shift, others believe that once science and philosophy meet in the middle a type of materialism will surface to explain it. How we, as humans, form our feelings about certain things is seemingly mysterious, and to some extent disturbing considering it is the one thing we regard ourselves as knowing the most intimately.

Eliminativism is a relatively new and controversial branch of philosophy of mind. This theory had its true start in the mid twentieth century. Eliminativism holds that there is no such thing as mental states as we commonly think of them. These theorists believe that folk psychology is wrong and will be proven false in the future.  

Eliminativism as a philosophy of mind is a form of materialism. The eliminativist purports that there is no such thing as mental events. One may think that by this they mean to say that there are only correlated neurological events, but they do not believe this either. Eliminativists believe that there is no correlation between neurological events and mental events, and that is simply because the latter do not exist. It is a hard idea to grasp, as it seems almost impossible to imagine that we do not feel, belief, or have any sort of emotions about what is going on in our life, but that is what the eliminativist suggests. 

Arguments for eliminativism draw mainly on contesting folk psychology.  Folk psychology is how we think of mental states of ourselves and other people. We draw conclusions based on past experience and knowledge, which is disturbing to the eliminativist. The eliminativist believes that folk psychology will be deemed wrong in the future, just as folk psychosis and medicine was. These ways of life (psychosis, medicine, etc.) may have been accepted at one point in history, but they were debunked as information proved them false.

Eliminativism is reminiscent of Dennett’s instrumentalist argument that mental states are just a way of handling with a complex system. Eliminativism holds this view too, but in a more extreme matter. Proponents of this theory of mind believe that mental states such as beliefs, desires, and emotions do not exist at all, and that we only hold onto such ideas as mental states because of the folk psychology.

Eliminativists believe however that to understand the true nature of reality, we must go beyond Dennett’s “intentional stance”, that of common sense, and “design stance”, that of mental events and sub-functions, and only worry ourselves in neuroscience or the “physical stance”. The eliminativist theory purports that there are no such thing as mental events, but rather only neurological events that do not correlate to the so-called mental events.

As said before, this philosophy of mind seems very hard to grasp, but if we look at past examples it becomes clearer. People used to believe that the Sun revolved around the Earth, which is where the phrases “sunset” and “sunrise” came from. Now, however, we know very well that the Sun does not revolve around the Earth, but rather the opposite. To people during the time of this discover, it surely came as a shock the Earth was not the center of the universe, and that the Sun was. However, since scientific evidence showed proof for this fact, it was accepted as a truth. This is how it may be in the future with further neuroscience research. It may be discovered that the brain is just that, and we will have to say goodbye to psychology as a whole, including folk psychology. But just as we still say sunset and sunrise, semantically speaking, eliminativists realize that speak of the mind will not cease for a long while even if such a discovery is made.

Though the eliminativist philosophy of mind may be a hard one to accept or even attempt to accept, it does base its evidence on observation of the past and how folk areas of study have as a majority been debunked. There will most likely never be an extremely large following for eliminativism as it gets rid of what most humans believe makes us ourselves, and that is our minds.

 

            When contemplating one’s time here on Earth, the usual format is a linear span of time; that which includes a beginning, middle, and end. This is how most Western religions think of life, such as Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. The linear aspect of these religions emanates throughout their entire ideologies. Just as life has this straight chain of events, so does the religion itself, and deters connections made between different values and ideas. Hinduism is quite the opposite, speaking in terms of the time line of life and the religion itself. Hinduism is much more cyclical, and necessitates a deeper connection between certain aspects of life.

            The idea of a cyclical timeline is a rather foreign idea to Western thought. Growing up in a dominantly Christian country instills ideas of birth, living, and dying as being the three phases of one’s life. Hinduism brings this idea to a very strange spot, however. In a way, it does recognize that a human is born, lives, and dies with in one life span, but the words ‘born’ and ‘dies’ must be taken with a grain of salt. To be ‘born’ in a Hindu perspective is to be re-born, or reincarnated. And to ‘die’, leans more toward the essence of extinguishing, or moksha. A person’s life now, in this moment, is not their only life; they have lived before, and will live again. Not only do specific human lives not have a certain beginning, neither does the religion itself. The fact that Hinduism does not have a founder, but evolved organically, opposes the linear time frame that Christianity, Islam, and Judaism impose.

            The creation account itself is usually a very important part of religions, however in Hinduism, it is not. This fact fits very well with the fact that Hinduism, as stated before, is cyclical in nature, “Aruni said: ‘But how, indeed, could it be thus, my dear? How could Being be born from non—being? No, my dear, it was Being alone that existed in the beginning, one only without a second.’” (Upanishads, 2) By not having a creation account, it does not have a beginning, which reinforces its cyclical character. Though this does hint that there was, in fact, a beginning, it also states that there was something being before the beginning, which nullifies it being a beginning at all. The fact that there was no true beginning, according to Hinduism, pushes toward a closer relationship to Earth than a religion that does assert one. By declaring that there was no one person or being that created the Earth, sets it apart from dualistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, etc.,) in that Being, not a being, but general being, was always present, and always will be.

            Another way in which Hinduism creates a closer relationship to the earth is that cyclical nature of life itself. By asserting that a person is an eternal soul on Earth, it follows that we as these souls must take care for the world we live in. We are all apart of the essential Being mentioned before. Everything that is truly being at this moment is apart of the Being, merely in different states. By recognizing this, the Earth and everything in and surrounding it takes on a reflection of oneself, “The wise man beholds all beings in the Self and the Self in all beings; for that reason he does not hate anyone.” (Upanishads, 1) This enforces the idea that if we were to harm anything on Earth, we would, transitively, be harming ourselves.

            By necessity, the Hindu people must keep Earth in top-notch condition, as they believe they are to be reincarnated on it essentially forever. By having this cyclical timeline of life, it necessitates that Hindus do good, and keep doing good through out their entire lives. This is because, essentially, to be reincarnated favorably in the next life, one must succeed and do well in this one. This is very different from the Christian, Muslim, or Jewish way of thinking about things, as if one does not live a good life, there are really only two (perhaps three) options; you will go to Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory. Although Hell or Purgatory are both places people do not want to end up in the afterlife, this would be the end-all to a specific persons soul. A Hindu perspective is much more effective when contemplating Earth’s wellbeing, because if you wake up as an endangered animal of some sort, you are bound to feel the effects of the maltreatment.

            Incarnation is something that Hinduism and Christianity have in common. However, the way Hinduism incorporates incarnation is much more earthly. By having incarnation, rather reincarnation, apart of the cyclical life style of the Hindu people, it makes everyone equal. Contrary to the Christianity, where incarnation sets the common person apart from divinity, and also divinity from Earth, Hinduism strengthens the bonds between religious belief and it’s people, and also people’s bonds with Earth.

            Hinduism creates a very deep connection between Earth and man, by physically and mentally bonding man to Earth, it is essential for him to take care of it. This has an inherent notion to tend to the Earth’s needs and make sure it is fit for lifetimes to come. Christianity and other dualistic religions do not view Earth this way, as they do not believe they will be here for new lives. This is why Hinduism creates much more profound worldview and is very concerned with the environment.

 

Traditionally, while considering religion, one’s mind will drift to images of a white building with tall steeple, and a priest or other leader preaching to a congregation. However, the transcendentalists bring up other images, like being on top of a mountain in the Adirondacks, or spotting a deer off in the distance. While reading Thoreau, Emerson, and all of the lovely transcendentalists, I could not help but let my mind wander to similar thoughts of existentialisms and phenomenology. It seems to me that while there most certainly are differences between transcendentalism and existentialism, there are many parallels. 

Transcendentalists, such as Thoreau advocate finding religious clarity through experiences in the wilderness, truly connecting with it, and seeing God in nature. By experiencing nature, what transcendentalists believe to be God’s work, one can come very close to God. Unlike attending church and being told about God, you will be experiencing him and his work first-hand; contact! Contact is perhaps the most important aspect of transcendentalism; it pushes one to desert tradition and pursue a very personal encounter with God, rather than a universal one from church. As Thoreau trekked through the Maine woods, he encountered many phenomenological experiences, “I looked with awe at the ground I trod on, to see what the Powers had made there, the form and fashion and material of their work. This was that Earth of which we have heard, made out of Chaos and Old Night. Here was no man’s garden, but the unhandseled globe. It was not lawn, nor pasture, not mead, nor woodland, nor lea, nor arable, nor wasteland. It was the fresh and natural surface of the planet earth” (273 Thoreau). Thoreau was awestruck by this seemingly undiscovered earth, and this is why his experience was phenomenological. Thoreau had a moment (and many others separate from this one) where he truly couldn’t think of anything except how he was encountering such a beautiful piece of nature, and how God made it perfectly. This is what he means when he promotes contact, as there would be no such experiences with out pushing yourself into the world as it was made originally, into the wilderness. 

This sort of phenomenological experience is where I find similarities between transcendentalism and existentialism. Both ways of thinking are very concerned with the individual, and focusing on one’s own experience in the world. Existentialism, however, is based on the individual’s experience in an autonomous manner, and does not easily coincide with the belief in God or gods. Whereas transcendentalism is based on the individual’s experience in relation to discovering one’s own divine experience, quite contrary to being autonomous. While these two ideologies differ concerning the divine, they both weigh the individual understanding of the self and self-consciousness very heavily.

In a way, transcendentalism is to Christianity as existentialism is to traditional philosophy, in that it calls for the individual to cast away conventional ways of making sense of life, and instead calls to investigate yourself to truly understand existence. Emerson advocates this clearly in his Divinity School Address, “Yourself a newborn bard of the Holy Ghost, – cast behind you all conformity, and acquaint men at first hand with Deity. Look to it first and only, that fashion, custom, authority, pleasure, and money, are nothing to you, -are not bandages over your eyes, that you cannot see, -but live with the privilege of the immeasurable mind.” (6, Emerson). Here Emerson, while giving the Harvard Divinity School Address, tells these graduates to essentially put behind them all they have learned, and to acquaint themselves “at first hand with Deity”. This is very similar to what Nietzsche, a German existentialist philosopher, would say about the process of understanding oneself, save the Deity. As Nietzsche said, “One’s own self is well hidden from one’s own self; of all mines of treasure, one’s own is the last to be dug up.” (Nietzsche). Both transcendentalism and existentialism promote ideas of shedding traditional authority of religion or society in general, and instead doing very in-depth introspection to find God, or one’s own autonomous self, respectively. 

Both ways of thought, in most cases, involve phenomenological experiences. This is because both bring the individual so close to the essence of being, ontologically speaking, whether the conclusion being that it is due to a God, or another means. No matter what one’s beliefs are, it is very common for both transcendentalists and existentialists alike to experience a phenomenological happening. To have such an experience does not necessitate a belief in divinity, but implies that the individual is completely awe-struck in what they conclude, which can be said of most schools of thought. 

Though transcendentalism and existentialism do differ in certain aspects, they also overlap in others. Both ideologies stress the importance of the individual and the contact with what they believe to be the ultimate truth. These philosophies especially correspond in that both encourage the straying away from norms of traditional ways of religion or life, and the deeper investigation of the self, be it connection to Deity or the autonomous self.

The way in which humans interact with animals seems to closely relate to how we treat fellow human beings. In order for our ethics to be carried out to the fullest, we must treat animals as if they were humans. Descartes and Kant had differing opinions on the role of animals in the world, and how we ought to treat them. The progression of compassion and fairness toward animals demonstrates the same compassion and fairness toward other humans over history.

            Rene Descartes had one of the more sinister outlooks on animals. Although he was in no way an advocate of animal cruelty, he believed animals were “automata”, or small robots. He did not believe that animals had a thinking mind separate from their instincts, and therefore believed animals were made for human use. Descartes did not believe in regarding animals as compassionately as we do humans, however, as Kant did. Unlike Kant, Descartes believed in some animals being better than others, “within a single species some of them are more perfect than others, as men are too. This can be seen in horses and dogs, some of whom learn what they are taught much better than others” (Descartes, 4).  This greatly contradicts many animal rights ideals of the present, however very much supports those in Descartes’ day.  Although animals were not seen as completely at human disposal, they were certainly seen as a possible means to an end. By looking at anything in this manner, the chances for abuse are very high. In Descartes’ era, animals were primarily used for farming, hunting, and meat, and this what Descartes believed; humans could use animals for what they deemed necessary or suitable.

            Kant has perhaps the most liberal view on the treatment of animals, especially considering he wrote about two hundred years ago. Contrary to Descartes, Kant believed in treating animals the way humans ought to be treated, with respect, dignity, and surely without violence. Kant’s main argument for this was that while hurting an animal may not be the absolute worst thing in the world, it is a gateway that allows for much worse and more evil thoughts and actions to brew. Kant even went so far to extend the right to grubs, “Leibniz put the grub he had been observing back on the tree with its leaf, lest he should be guilty of doing any harm to it. It upsets a man to destroy such a creature for no reason, and this tenderness is subsequently transferred to man” (Kant, 213).  Though it seems that Kant may have gone a bit overboard with using a tiny grub as an example, it demonstrates his point very well. What he is attempting to get across is that people need to stay sensitized to the harm of any person or animal, even if it is as small as a grub.  By staying in touch with this side of oneself, it is extremely hard to be involved in a violent act, as one does not want the guilt of doing harm to another living being. While Kant did believe that humans were superior to animals in many ways, he believed that by recognizing they too have feelings and to some extent, emotions, we could relate to them, and therefore better understand why we must treat them humanely.

            Descartes and Kant had differing views on the treatment of animals by humans. Though Descartes was not an advocate of animal cruelty, he was an advocate of using animals as he saw fit, as he believed they were automata, and to be used by the discretion of humans. Kant, on the other hand, believed in treating animals in a peaceful and kind manner, as it would better benefit humans as a whole. Kant’s ideology of animals is much more sough after, however, as it truly promotes the compassionate treatment of animals, and greatly coincides with the most accepted animal rights views today.

            The human mind seems to be an elusive concept in any area of study. The question of whether it is a material substance or something else is a perplexing and seemingly inexplicable matter. Descartes set the famous precedent of asserting that the mind is a mental substance, as opposed to material. Identity theorists, however, disagree with this notion. The Identity Theory holds that the mind is in face a material substance, and nothing more than the goings-on in the brain.

            That the Identity Theory is valid remains to be seen, however it certainly gives a more straightforward solution to the mind-body problem. Proponents of the Identity Theory purport that by proposing that the mind and the brain are identical (that mental events are neurological events) the complications of the “mental substance” dualists suggest is elapsed. Parsimony is the term Identity Theorists use to describe this aspect of simplicity that the theory brings to the philosophy of mind. The principle of parsimony suggests that the simplest way for something to work is the more sensible; as opposed to complicating our understanding of how the universe works with pointless additions to an already intricate reality, as dualists do according to Identity Theorists. These theorists believe it is frivolous to appeal to a non-material mind, especially when there seems to be no reputable plea to apply this idea to other lesser-minded animals. Why should human beings be the sole possessors of minds when other animals, while not self-conscious in the light of human consciousness, make decisions and carry out complicated physical and mental processes? Identity Theorists hold this claim to be futile, it only makes the causal interaction between the so-called mind and body more complicated.

            This theory of the mind is based upon the conjecture that mental occurrences are the goings on in the brain. Every mental state is identical to a material state. This is where the concept of strict identity is essential. To be identical in this sense is not the way identical twins are identical, but in the way water is identical to H2O.  For example, the state of depression is identical to a material neurological state. This does not mean that the state of depression corresponds with a certain brain-state, as something that is itself cannot be correlated with itself. The state of depression is a neurological state.

            There are apparent problems with the Identity Theory. It seems that mental states, feelings or thoughts, are very different in kind than material states of the brain. This is a very difficult theory to prove. To quote Heil, “Any object could be given multiple names; any object could be described in different ways. You could know an object under one name or description, but not under another” (Heil 76). This exemplifies the difficulty of truly knowing is one occurrence is, in fact, identical to another. As Heil says, it is possible to know an object by a different name or properties than another person knows it by, even if it is the same object. Thus, something may be described in different ways while being the same exact idea or entity. This can be applied to mental states and brain states, and perhaps in the future with more research, the theory that mental states are, in actuality, brain functions.

             Another aspect of this dilemma is that if neurological states of the brain are in fact mental states, then mental states should be as publically observable as the brain. Descartes’ dualism seems to better answer the quandary of private vs. public observational states. Since dualism proposes that the mind is a mental, rather than material, substance, it appears that the privacy of the mind is very apparent and makes sense. However, for the Identity Theorist, this seems to be impossible to answer. Though adherents of this theory believe that the more scientists investigate, the more intimately interwoven mental and neurological goings-on become.

            This is where U.T. Place’s “phenomological fallacy” proves helpful.  Place’s fallacy holds that the Identity Theory is often mistaken because many confuse the “properties of objects experienced with properties of experiences” (Heil 81). Place and supporters of the Identity Theory maintain that once the distinction is made between the properties of an object and the properties of the experience of the object, the idea that experiences are brain processes is more formidable.

            The Identity Theory may not be flawless, but it brings about eminent improvements to theories of the philosophy of mind.  It dissipates the problem of causal interaction between different substances, those being mental and material as dualists hold. By asserting that mental and material goings-on in the brain (or mind, used synonymously) are the same, Identity Theorists alleviate this large predicament, but also bring on new ones. Now the problem arises of how the privacy of minds is so apparent when they are truly physical things, specifically the brain. While it leaves many questions to answer still, it does develop new answers to the essential questions of the philosophy of mind.