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 Final Exam Questions UC Berkeley Philosophy of Mind with Searle

Below are final exam questions for the Philosophy of Mind course with Searle that I took in 1982.  This is included to indicate what a Philosophy Major is about and what one studies when they study Philosophy.  It is not readings from Plato as people would typically suppose, it is modern contemporary questions and positions on the relation between the mind and the brain, whether the mind is a computer, the nature of theories such as Intentionality and so forth.  Read the questions and learn what Philosophy is about.

 Part I:  The Mind Body Problem

1. What exactly is the mind-body problem?  Why do most contemporary philosophers reject the Cartesian answer to this problem?  Critically examine one of the anti-dualist solutions to the mind-body problem. 

2. What exactly is meant by "qualia"? To what extent do qualia pose a problem for materialist theories of mind? Give examples

3. “If mental phenomena are not reducible to physical phenomena and the physical world is causally closed, then mental phenomena can have no effect on the physical world.   Epiphenomenalism follows.” Critically appraise this argument. What answer would Searle give to this argument?

4.  How would Searle respond to the following argument against the claim that consciousness is ontologically irreducible?

"Other biological and physical phenomena such as liquidity, solidity and digestion are    ontologically reducible to the lowest level of physics, so wouldn't it be strange---and thus a conclusion we should avoid--if it turned out that there were a unique, special exception, consciousness, that is not ontologically reducible?"

5. Briefly summarize and critically appraise Searle’s biological naturalism.

Part II.  Cognitive Science

 6. "Cognitive Science does not study the brain at the level of folk psychology (the level of consciousness and Intentionality) nor does it study the level of neurobiology but rather it studies the intermediate level computational level between folk psychology and neurobiology." Discuss and critically assess this claim.

7.  "If the man in the Chinese Room really could pass the Turing Test, he really would understand Chinese." Discuss. In your answer explain briefly: What is the Chinese Room and what is the Turing Test?

8. What is the relation between conscious and unconscious mental processes? Are there unconscious mental processes that are not even the sort of things that could become conscious? What are the implications of your answer for cognitive science research?

9.  Searle claims that “Syntax is not intrinsic to physics.”  What bearing does this have on the project of giving a computational account of cognition?

Part III. Intentionality

10. Briefly explain the following notions:

 Propositional content,

  psychological mode,

 conditions of satisfaction,

  direction of fit,

causal self referentiality.

Give examples of each.

11.  Searle argues against Hume that we have an experience of causation during most of our conscious life, and that Hume was ``looking in the wrong place.'' What does Searle mean by this?  Why does he think that his account of intentionality shows that we have an experience of causation?

12.  What does Searle mean by "the gap(s)" of free will? What gaps does he recognize? What problems do these gaps pose for his overall account of the mind?

13. Briefly summarize any one of the deviant causal chain examples (Chisholm’s, Davidson’s or Bennett’s). How is Searle’s account of the structure of intentional action supposed to answer this problem?

14.  How does Searle understand the intentionality of perception?  How would he explain the difference between a hallucination and a veridical perception?

Part IV.  The Background, Freedom of the Will, Externalism and Related Issues).

15. There are a number of arguments for and against the existence of a pre-intentional Background. State the argument you find most convincing and explain it. How does the Background relate to the Network?

16. What explanatory role does the postulation of the Background play in Searle's account of the mind?  How does his view differ from standard cognitive science accounts of mental operations?

17. Briefly summarize and critically assess Putnam’s Twin Earth argument for externalism.  What importance does your answer have for a theory of Intentionality?

18. Imagine that we had a complete scientific understanding of the brain. Could such an understanding help to resolve the dispute between free will and determinism?  If so, how?  If not, why not?

19. What is compatibilism? Does compatibilism provide an adequate solution to the problem of free will and determinism? Why or why not?

20. What are the arguments for and against the postulation of a self as something in addition to the body and the sequence of conscious experiences?

Study Questions Part II

1.  What is the difference between `type-type' and `token-token' identity theories?  What reasons are there to reject the former type of theory in favor of the latter?

2.  What is a functionalist theory of the mind?  How do such theories constitute an elaboration or improvement on token-token identity theories?

3.  State the thesis of `eliminative materialism'.  How does this position differ from the position that mental states can be reduced to neurophysiological states?

4.  Describe what Searle calls the “Cognitivist model of the mind”.  How does this model attempt to circumvent the objections to computational functionalism suggested by Searle's `Chinese Room' argument?

5.  What is the scenario envisaged by the hypothesis of the inverted spectrum?  Does it pose a problem for functionalism?

6.  What is Kripke's modal argument against identity theories? Is it successful?

7.  State the difference between `ontological subjectivity' and `epistemic subjectivity'.  How does Searle use this distinction to undermine the philosophical motivation behind attempts to provide a materialist reduction of consciousness?

8.  Discuss Nagel's way of drawing the distinction between subjectivity and objectivity in `What is it Like to be a Bat?'. How does Nagel's formulation of this distinction supply him with an argument against physicalist reduction?

9. What does Frank Jackson’s argument about Mary the neuroscientist show about functionalist analyses of the mind?

10. Jackson abandoned his argument for the following reason:

“Most contemporary philosophers given a choice between going with science and going with intuitions, go with science. Although I once dissented from the majority, I have capitulated and now see the interesting issue as being where the arguments from the intuitions against physicalism—the arguments that seem so compelling—go wrong.” (Jackson, 2003)

Is this a good reason for abandoning his original argument?

11.  Searle argues that Intentional states and speech acts have a parallel structure, and that this results from there being an important link between them. Outline the structure they have in common, and show how this results from the way that they are linked.

12.  What is a causally emergent property?  What does it mean to say that minds are causally emergent properties of brains?

13.  What is the `accordion effect'?  Give an example of an action and show how this effect arises in your example. How does it relate to Searle’s analysis of action?

14. Briefly state Searle's position regarding the relation between Intentional states and the Network and the Background.  What reasons does he give for holding that there must be such a Network and Background?  How does this position constitute a rebuttal to Cognitivism?

15.  What is the `connection principle'?  What does it imply regarding the ontology of unconscious mental states?  What motivations are there for accepting such an ontology?

16.  How do experiences of perception and experiences of intentional action differ from other kinds of Intentional states (e.g., beliefs and desires) with respect to their conditions of satisfaction?

17.  Discuss the suggestion that the indeterminacy of physical interaction at the quantum level provides a solution to the problem of free will.  What reasons are there to reject that suggestion?

18.  Describe the notion `aspectual shape' with respect to Intentional states.  What reasons are there to hold that Intentional states always have `aspectual shape'?

19.  "Intentionality rises to the level of Background skill." Explain this statement and give an example in support of it.

20.  What impact have Turing machines and Church's Thesis had on the mind-body problem?  Briefly state the argument.

21.  Briefly discuss the connection between Intentionality and Consciousness.

22.  Does Searle's solution to the mind-body problem avoid reductionism? Does it avoid dualism?

23.  Davidson holds that there are causal relations between mental events and physical events.  He also holds that whenever events are causally related, those events fall under strict deterministic laws.  He also holds that there are no strict deterministic laws governing the relationship between mental events and physical events.  How does Davidson reconcile these three claims?

24.  How would each of the following analyze the mental state of being in pain?

(a). The behaviorist

(b). The token-token identity theorist

(c). The functionalist

(d). The biological naturalist

25. Briefly outline Descartes' distinction between mind and body.  What problems does the distinction create for Descartes?  Can these problems be solved?

26.  Compare Descartes' account of mind-body relationships with any one of the other authors you have read in this course.  What are the strengths and weaknesses of each account?

29.  Does Searle's Chinese Room argument succeed in refuting Strong AI?  Why or why not?

30. What is the role of Intentional causation in the explanation of human behavior? Illustrate your answer with examples.

31. Does compatibilism provide a satisfactory resolution of the Free will vs. Determinism debate?  Why or why not?

32. What are the prospects for reducing social sciences such as sociology to natural sciences such as physics?

Compare your answer with those of Fodor and Searle.

33. What is epiphenomenalism? Is it possible to give an account of mental causation of behavior that avoids epiphenomenalism? If so, how; if not why not?

34. What is Searle's thesis of "biological naturalism"? Searle claims it avoids both reductionism and property dualism. Is he right about this? Critically appraise his claim.

35. Could the issue between free will and determinism be settled by a scientific discovery? If so, how, and if not, why not?

36. In addition to your body and the sequence of your experiences does there exist in you a self? If so, what is it, if not why not?

37. Kim charges that Searle’s theory of mental causation is committed to “causal over determination”. What exactly is this charge? Is it a valid objection?

38. Does Burge’s argument about the example of “arthritis” show that the content of a person’s beliefs can be determined by the linguistic community of which he is a part? Briefly summarize and assess the argument.

39. A literary critic, I. A. Richards, complained as early as the 1920s that in order to be a behaviorist, you have to “feign anesthesia”. What was he driving at? Do you think his objection is on the right track? Does it help the behaviorist to talk about mental states being “dispositions” to behavior?

40. Does Searle think his account has the consequence that we could not build a conscious robot? What would it take to build a conscious robot?

41. Searle claims that the “Bad Argument” in the philosophy of perception is one of the worst mistakes in the past 400 years in philosophy.  What exactly is the Bad Argument?  What consequences does it have?  Is Searle right in his estimation of its importance? 


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