Mind, philosophy of

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-V038-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved September 24, 2017, from

Article Summary

‘Philosophy of mind’, and ‘philosophy of psychology’ are two terms for the same general area of philosophical inquiry: the nature of mental phenomena and their connection with behaviour and, in more recent discussions, the brain.

Much work in this area reflects a revolution in psychology that began mid-century. Before then, largely in reaction to traditional claims about the mind being non-physical (see Dualism; Descartes), many thought that a scientific psychology should avoid talk of ‘private’ mental states. Investigation of such states had seemed to be based on unreliable introspection (see Introspection, psychology of), not subject to independent checking (see Private language argument), and to invite dubious ideas of telepathy (see Parapsychology). Consequently, psychologists like B.F. Skinner and J.B. Watson, and philosophers like W.V. Quine and Gilbert Ryle argued that scientific psychology should confine itself to studying publicly observable relations between stimuli and responses (see Behaviourism, methodological and scientific; Behaviourism, analytic).

However, in the late 1950s, several developments began to change all this: (i) The experiments behaviourists themselves ran on animals tended to refute behaviouristic hypotheses, suggesting that the behaviour of even rats had to be understood in terms of mental states (see Learning; Animal language and thought). (ii) The linguist Noam Chomsky drew attention to the surprising complexity of the natural languages that children effortlessly learn, and proposed ways of explaining this complexity in terms of largely unconscious mental phenomena. (iii) The revolutionary work of Alan Turing (see Turing machines) led to the development of the modern digital computer. This seemed to offer the prospect of creating Artificial intelligence, and also of providing empirically testable models of intelligent processes in both humans and animals. (iv) Philosophers came to appreciate the virtues of realism, as opposed to instrumentalism, about theoretical entities in general.

Citing this article:
Jackson, Frank and Georges Rey. Mind, philosophy of, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-V038-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2017 Routledge.

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