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Much of the psychiatric literature refers to psychopathy as a "mental disorder".

Much of the psychiatric literature refers to psychopathy as a "mental disorder". However, can't it be considered a natural part of the spectrum of human psychological characteristics? It has after all, evolved for a reason; traits such as a lack of: guilt, remorse, empathy and the ability to be superficially charming are beneficial in many areas such as politics and the corporate business world. So which is it; "mental disorder", or "natural evolutionary adaptation"?

I guess it's partly a matter of what we mean. We could decide that if there's an adaptive explanation for some trait, we won't call it a disorder. That said, the fact that there could be an adaptive explanation for a trait doesn't mean that there is and in particular, the fact that there could be an adaptive explanation for psychopathy doesn't mean there is, and we may well never know

All that said, perhaps the real point here is that what we count as a "disorder" isn't just a matter of whether it makes the person who has it more likely to survive or reproduce. We might be able to make the case that on average, psychopathy doesn't contribute to reproductive fitness or other related matters. But even if it turned out that it actually does, we would most likely still classify psychopathy as a disorder.

All of which tends to confirm the suspicion that diagnoses sometimes (often? always?) rest partly on value judgments. That raises some red flags, as the case of homosexuality demonstrates. Homosexuality was once diagnosed as a mental disorder. Looking back on the matter now, it seems clear that this was the result of a debatable (I'd say mistaken) value judgment. That's just one among many such cases and so there's lots of room to worry.

Worry or not, however, it's not clear that we can expect to have a purely biological, non-evaluative notion of health and illness -- physical or psychological. The fact that something is adaptive in the biologist's sense doesn't necessarily mean that we should simply accept it and not try to find ways of preventing it or mitigating it. And the fact that something isn't adaptive in the biologist's sense doesn't mean that we should treat it as pathological. How exactly all this should be sorted out, however, is clearly not easy to say.

Some theories of behavior seem to rely on the idea that we are unaware of what

Some theories of behavior seem to rely on the idea that we are unaware of what we are doing, and that much of our behavior is programmed or conditionned into us by "our culture" without us actually being aware of this happening. To what extents are such accounts credible? A theory that tells me that the *real* reason I eat meat is because I am expressing my belief in human supremacy and dominance over animals I consider inferior doesn't seem at all credible to me, and yet if that theory also says that I just *think* I'm eating meat because it's tasty and (in some circumstances) healthy - presumably because my human supremacist culture indoctrinates me into believing this - how can I know that the theory isn't right? To what extent can a person trust their own introspection?

This may not be much help but I would say "to some extent." There can be no doubt that judgments based on introspection are sometimes wrong. I have often had the experience of thinking that I did something with one motivation only to realize later that there was another at work as well. Also, our introspective judgments are often self serving. We need to approach them with a degree of skepticism.

The veracity of our inner soundings also depends on the concepts that we are looking at ourselves through. It makes all the difference in the world whether I examione myself through a Freudian, Marxist, or purely phsycalistic lens. Whether looking out or rolling our eyes balls in looking in - what we see is deeply impacted by the ideas that we are peering through.

Is identity determined by your physical appearance or something like a "soul"?

Is identity determined by your physical appearance or something like a "soul"? If someone was to receive a brain transplant and be inside another body, would they really be the same person they were before even if they had the same thoughts, ideas, and memories? Would the new body with the same brain just be a fake duplicate?

This is a deep and interesting question, which goes to the heart of the topic of personal identity, and reflects a tradition that stretches back to John Locke's treatment of the topic in the Essay Concerning Human Understanding. A preliminary note is in order, however: most contemporary treatments of personal identity--and that of Locke as well--do not turn on whether personal identity is determined by the body (one's 'physical appearance') or the soul, but in terms of whether personal identity is determined by the identity of the body or the mind. (By framing the question in this way, philosophers who are agnostic about the existence of the soul, or thinking substance--like Locke--or who deny its existence--like many participants in recent philosophical debates on the topic, can engage it without having to take up the issue of whether there is such thing as a soul.) Interestingly enough, the kind of 'thought experiment' that you propose to illustrate your question is one that Locke himself considers and with which philosophers continue to grapple. But let's set aside Locke for now, since his own treatment of the issue is complicated by his own views about the point of personal identity and the nature of our knowledge, and focus on the question itself.

I'm not altogether clear about the case that you're proposing, so I'll present my own way of framing it. The issue that you are raising seems to be the following: if a person's brain is transplanted into another body--assuming, I take it, that a person's psychological life supervenes on her brain and so a person would continue to have the same thoughts, ideas, and memories despite the fact that her brain is 'housed' in another body--would the person be the same person as before? The answer to this question is: it depends. If one takes the identity of a person to be constituted by her psychology, that is, ,her thoughts, ideas, and memories, then she would be the same person, even if she was occupying another body. But if one takes the identity of a person to be constituted by the identity of her body--and, after all, we normally identify and reidentify people on the basis of their physical appearance--then one might maintain that the person is different. For when a person undergoes a fundamental change in her worldview--think, for example, of Paul on the road to Damascus--one might claim that that person remains the same person. (Of course, in the case just cited, the person in question didn't think that he was the same person after his conversion: Saul became Paul.)

Now in such a case, would the person be a "fake duplicate"? (I presume that you mean that the person after the transplant would be a "fake duplicate" of the person before the transplant, as in John Woo's movie Face-Off, in which the thoughts of one person are transplanted into the body of another--and vice versa, but let's set that complication to the side.) Well, if the person whose psychological life had been transplanted into another body knew of the transplant, she could try to 'pass' as that person, and she might be successful, especially if she knew enough about the thoughts, ideas, and memories of the person whose body she was occupying, since, of course, from the outside, the fact that a new psychological life was being housed in that body wouldn't be apparent. If, however, no such attempt at 'passing' was made, then I'm inclined to say that the person wouldn't be a "fake duplicate," but would simply be occupying another body.

Now my last remark indicates my sympathy for the idea that personal identity is constituted by psychology. However, since I'm not inclined to think that psychology can simply be transplanted into another body--either by transplanting a brain or by any other means--and since in fact I'm inclined to think that one's psychology may well be constituted by one's body, I'm drawn to the idea that personhood isn't constituted either by psychology or by the body but by both. (I believe, although I may well be mistaken, that this position is known as 'animalism' in the contemporary literature, and is distinct from positions that take personal identity to be constituted by identity of the body or by psychology.)

This is a fascinating topic, that continues to receive lots of attention from philosophers--and which figures in various movies, ranging from Total Recall to Face Off to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to All of Me. If you're interested in pursuing the issue a bit more systematically, a very nice starting point is a dialogue on the topic by John Perry.

Has philosophy adequately dealt with the mind-body problem? I am looking for a

Has philosophy adequately dealt with the mind-body problem? I am looking for a serious answer from a person who is genuinely passionate about philosophy and not mere deferrals of the question through cliche stances so abundantly available amongst hobbyist-philosophers. Not to worry I am not out to justify some sort of theological stance, I am merely curious if professional philosophers are still concerned by this question or its derivatives. I would be very grateful for a response.

I'm not sure what's meant by "adequately dealt with", but if it means something like, "Come up with an answer that satisfies a fairly large group of people", then no, I don't think so. But to the other question, whether philosophers today still care about the mind-body problem, the answer is undoubtedly that they are. You might start here: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/physicalism/. The problem isn't that no-one has any good ideas what to say about mind and body, it's rather that too many people have too many good ideas, and the problem is fantastically hard. So hard that some philosophers, such as Colin McGinn, have argued that human beings are cognitively incapable of solving it (just as, say, dogs are cognitively incapable of even fairly basic mathematics). I don't say McGinn is right, just that one shouldn't assume the contrary.

Why do some philosophers say that how something feels, what it is like to be

Why do some philosophers say that how something feels, what it is like to be something, cannot be identical with any physical property, or at least any physical property which we know anything about?

One might argue for this conclusion as follows: the way things look, sound, taste, feel, etc.--what some philosophers call 'secondary qualities'--cannot be identical to any physical properties, because physical properties of things are either what philosophers have called 'primary qualities'--e.g., size, shape, motion, and the like--or they are more fundamental properties of physical systems, to which secondary qualities are not identical; consequently, secondary qualities are not reducible to physical properties. (Admittedly, this is a highly schematic argument. It should, however, be noted that someone who endorsed an argument like this might of course admit that although secondary qualities are not identical or reducible to any physical property, of course secondary qualities are related to physical qualities, perhaps even in a lawlike way, that admits of scientific investigation.)

When I am awake I see up and down and all the three dimensions as a present and

When I am awake I see up and down and all the three dimensions as a present and irrefutable reality. In a dream I also experience those very same three dimensions but when I reference that experience in waking I correlate it with my physical body(brain) and not with a real independent feature of reality. While the idea that dreams represent the possibility that the world is an illusion is a persistent philosophical question I am more concerned here with how an abstract feature that seems to convey a part of the essence of what we call physical reality, that is to say dimensionality, is undermined by our dream experience. It seems that dreams demonstrate that dimension is not necessarily as commonsensical a feature of physical reality as it appears. Isn't dimension a feature which is central to our modern scientific understanding of physical reality and then don't dreams then call into question much of scientific understanding?

Not sure I fully follow your question, esp your premise. You seem to say that our dreams are 'of', represent, have the content of, the same three-dimensional space of which we're aware when awake; but then you're worried about how we 'correlate' dreams with our bodies/brains. Is your worry that though we dream 'of' a three-dimensional space, our dream is in fact entirely located (if that makes senes) within our brain? (which is of course 3-d but that doesn't seem relevant to your concern) ... But if so, why is waking experience any different, since all our waking experience also 'occurs within' or 'is correlated with' our brain activity? If I've understood you correctly, maybe we should distinguish between 'what are experiences represent or are about' from 'what is their causal source' -- and then we can recognize that both waking/dream experience can be 'about' three-dimensional space even when being 'caused by' brain activity .... (Or if I haven't understood your concern, pls feel free to clarify it!)

ap

Is it possible to have a thought that has never been thought by anyone else

Is it possible to have a thought that has never been thought by anyone else before? A thought or notion that is so unique and individual to oneself that it surely could never have been thought by anyone else previously?

I think that the answer to this question depends on what one take a thought to be. If by 'thought', one means an actual, occurrent mental state, then surely it is possible to have a thought that no one else has ever had: if sensory perceptions are thoughts, then every distinct event that one experiences is a thought that no one else has ever had (or will ever have again, for that matter); if thoughts are taken to be conceptually mediated, and hence--here I simplify--linguistically mediated, then, given that we often generate new sequences of words that have never been uttered before (as we learn from Chomsky), then surely many of our linguistically mediated thoughts will constitute new sequences of words, and, hence, be thoughts that no else has ever had before. But it is more likely that by 'thought' was meant the content of the thought--that is, what one was thinking about. Given that one may think about one's sensory experiences, it seems to be trivially true that the contents of one's thoughts were never even accessible to another person. Moreover, given that one may have access to concepts that no other person has ever had--consider, for example, a chemist formulating an altogether new compound--then one may surely think about matters that no one else has ever thought about. Now one might think that even the thoughts of the chemist in the preceding example are themselves shaped by what s/he has learned about chemistry, and, thus, in a certain sense, are determined by previous thoughts and, hence, not genuinely new. While I think that I understand the picture that underlies this question--a picture according to which all knowledge builds on preceding knowledge and hence, in some sense depends on it--I don't think, even if one were to accept this picture, that it would therefore follow that one couldn't have a genuinely new thought.

When I was a child, I wanted to know what forever was. I would sit and

When I was a child, I wanted to know what forever was. I would sit and concentrate -- think and think and THINK -- until finally I felt what may have been a glimpse into something infinite. It was jarring, intense, and pretty incredible. What WAS that? Have other people had this experience?

Philosophers have expressed wide ranging views on the infinite, and even distinguished different kinds of infinites. In terms of the 'infinite' standing for a sequence of events without end, then (just as there is no greatest possible number) it is difficult for someone to claim to have experienced that (experienced all numbers, none of which is lacking in a greater number), though not perhaps difficult for one to claim to understand it (that is, understanding that there is no greatest possible number) or for someone to have an experience of time or space, along with the feeling that this will never end.

There has been some interesting testimony by some philosophers to have experienced soemthing related that may be of interest. Some philosophers have claimed to experience that which is boundless or, in some sense, eternal. Probably the two most famous philosophers to have spoken and analyzed such experiences are Boethius and Augustine. Boethius spoke of God's eternity (and having some experiential acquaintance with God as eternal) in terms of God possessing the 'whole, simultansous, and complete fruition of a life without bounds' (interminabilis vitae tot simul et perfecta possessio'). This would be different from claiming to experience what you might think of as 'forever' or 'endless'; it is more like experiencing an event so overwhelming and perhaps good that you seem to lose track of future and the past. This has been analyzed by some philosophers as experiencing something that is atemporal or beyond metric time or not bound by it. The philosopher A.E. Taylor in an interesting book in the early part of the last century wrote of the experience of eternity in ways that are (to use your term) intense, but more satisfying than jarring or incredible (not worthy of belief). In one example, he describes 'spending an evening of prolonged enjoyment in the company of wholly congenial friends. The past may be represented for us, if we stay to think of it at all, by whatever happened before the party began, the future -but when we are truly enjoying ourselves we do not anticipate it- by what will happen when the gathering is over. The enjoyment of the social evening has, of course, before and after within itself; the party may last two or three hours. But while it lasts and while our enjoyment of it is steady and at the full, the first half-hour in not envisaged as past, nor the third as future, while the second is going on....' Taylor goes on to defend the coherence and importance of experiences that seem to be in response to a value that we wish to last forever or not be bound by time, a state in which one or more people might be completely present to each other that they would never wish it to end. See Taylor's book The Faith of a Moralist --the title is a bit misleading given what we mean by 'moralist' or 'moralistic' today versus when he wrote the book in 1930. It is a good text for thinking about the experience of values and time. (See especially chapters three to six.)

Is there a correlation between intelligence and morality? I can imagine an

Is there a correlation between intelligence and morality? I can imagine an intelligent person giving a sophisticated analysis to a complex moral question before acting as warranted by his/her analysis. On the other hand, I can imagine a person of lesser intelligence acting in a moral and caring manner without much reflection, because he or she has been raised to be kind and considerate, and because kindness and consideration have always been part of the person's personality. Conversely, it is pretty easy to see examples of immoral behavior from both more intelligent and less intelligent people as well. It seems logical that intelligence would confer a greater ability to be moral, but everyday life does not seem to show any firm correlation between the two.

I think that how one sees the relation between intelligence and morality might well depend on how one conceives of morality. If one had a strongly intellectualist conception of morality--as, arguably, Plato and certain early modern Rationalists, such as Leibniz, had--then one might well think that an agent's capacity for moral reflection might well depend directly on her intelligence, and so one might conclude that a more intelligent agent would at least have the capacity to be a more moral agent as well (although, of course, s/he might fail to exercise that capacity). By contrast, if one thought that morality was a matter of following the law (as, for example, early modern natural law theorists, such as Pufendorf, thought), or that it was a matter of habituation (as, at least on certain interpretations, Aristotle thought), then one might think that the capacity to be a moral agent would be altogether independent of one's capacity for moral reflection. Indeed, certain philosophers have suggested that one's capacity for moral reflection is most manifest in unreflective actions or choices, which would suggest that morality and intelligence could come unhooked altogether. To be sure, regardless of how one conceives of morality, 'real life' examples may well reveal that theories of morality do not capture the choices or actions of agents: one might take such examples to reveal a problem with one's conception of morality, or instead merely to manifest a problem with an agent's moral 'performance', that is to say, the agent's actual manifestation of moral capacities, which nevertheless does not constitute any relevant evidence against a given theory of morality.

Why do we, psychologically/philosophically speaking, put such an emphasis on

Why do we, psychologically/philosophically speaking, put such an emphasis on things being "real"? What got me thinking about this question is the nature of our memories - while I can certainly recall some "half-memories" which probably never actually happened or even simply fabricate some, why do we place less value on these memories than "true" ones, even though they could theoretically have the effect on us?

great question ... we might make some useful distinctions -- whether memories, beliefs, etc. are 'true' does NOT make an immediate difference to the individual, psychologically: we act on what we think, believe, remember etc., and in that sense the false thoughts/memories are just as 'valuable' or 'real' or important as the true ones .... however in many ways we like to orient ourselves towards the truth, to get our beliefs to be true, etc.; and thus when we discover some belief/memory is false we want to correct it .... (why we do or should care about truth in general is a separate issue; but most people simply do) -- so from that perspective, there's a large difference between the true ones and the false ones, as we seek to overcome the latter ....

the "idealist' tradition in philosophy -- esp figures such as George Berkeley -- would ultimately deny the difference between the true ones/false ones (or at least reconstrue it very differently from the way I've implicitly done here) -- so if you want to pursue your idea in more detail, I'd recommend exploring the work of Berkeley ...

hope that's useful --

Andrew

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