The Mind-Body problem and the Computationalist and Cartesian Interactionist

In class we have considered two important solutions (of the many possible) to the Mind-Body problem: Physicalism (understood in terms of Computationalism whereby the brain is conceived of as a kind of biological computer running the ‘software’ that is the mind) and Cartesian Dualism (also known as Cartesian Interactionism in a nod to the causal interaction between the distinct mental and physical substances).

In analyzing Computationalism and Cartesian Interactionism, we considered a number of arguments for each solution and a number of arguments against each solution. Yet, as is often the case in philosophy, we are left with a bewildering array of arguments, but no final conclusion. This essay is your opportunity to retrace and fully color-in our discussion by cataloging the arguments, extracting them and verifying their validity, explaining them, and evaluating them so as to arrive at a tentative conclusion regarding these solutions.

Let us stipulate that science’s fierce embrace of Computationalism is not an argument for Computationalism or against Cartesian Interactionism. Science assumes Computationalism, in most cases uncritically, and conducts experiments accordingly. Yet the history of science is littered with assumptions that have fallen to the wayside: the luminiferous aether, phlogiston, and Lamarckism are a few that come immediately to mind. Presumably, the mere fact that science has made an assumption is prima facie no argument in favor of that assumption. Notice that this is not an accusation of Appeal to Inappropriate Authority. Rather, regarding this assumption, science is in much the same boat as the rest of us, uncertain which way to go, but casting its lot for now with Computationalism.

Further, let us simplify this project dramatically by assuming counterfactually that Computationalism and Cartesian Interactionism are the only solutions to the Mind-Body problem. No doubt non-reductionists (dualists) like Epiphenomenalists and Pan-Psychists and reductionists like Type-Physicalists and Idealists will pull their hair out in frustration. The solution space to the Mind-Body problem being absurdly large, however, surely we can beg their forgiveness for corralling off our own little corner of the space for further inquiry. The impact of this assumption is large, since now any argument against one of the two solutions is, a fortiori, an argument for the other solution. It follows the form of a disjunctive syllogism: Either Computationalism is true or Cartesian Interactionism is true; Computationalism (say) is not true; therefore, Cartesian Interactionism is true, or vice versa, of course. By discarding other possible solutions, we set aside accusations of having committed the fallacy of False Dilemma.

With those two constraints in place, write an essay of not less than 750 words and not more than 1250 words in which you conduct a rigorous philosophical investigation by

  1. Explaining the Mind-Body problem and the Computationalist and Cartesian Interactionist solutions to it as if to someone who is a quick study but has never encountered this terminology before;
  2. Set out in standard (numbered) form the four best arguments you have seen in class for Computationalism, noting of course that an argument against Cartesian Interactionism constitutes an argument for Computationalism under the second of our stipulations;
  3. Set out in standard (numbered) form the four best arguments you have seen in class for Cartesian Interactionism, noting of course that an argument against Computationalism constitutes an argument for Cartesian Interactionism under the second of our stipulations;
  4. Construct an appendix to the essay in which you i) translate each argument into PC and ii) construct an Analytic Tableaux of each PC-translation so as to demonstrate validity.

Sample Solution