Posted: March 23rd, 2015

Is it more reasonable to think that the patient has the usual range of mental states, no mental states, or only some kinds of mental states and not others?

An abstract is a short (usually less than 50 word) summary that states your thesis and the rough structure of your paper.  You should assume that your reader has not read your abstract when s/he reads the body of your essay.  You may use lines directly from your abstract in your introduction or elsewhere.  Be sure your reader can distinguish abstract from body.  One convention is to put the abstract in italics, single-spaced, with justified wide margins.  Another way is to state “Abstract” above the abstract, and “Body” above the body.
Topic Preamble:
Imagine that your best friend was in a car accident.  She tells you that she was briefly unconscious and woke up in the hospital, where she still is.  She’s also told you that she has been feeling fine for the last couple of days, but the doctors have decided to keep her in for tests. While in the hospital visiting her, you have heard rumours of a patient who lacks a normal human brain, but otherwise seems to becompletely normal.  Then you overhear the following conversation.

Doctor #1: “I think it’s pretty clear.  Since the patient lacks a normal human brain, she does not have any mental states, since mental states are type-identical to states of the human brain.”

Doctor #2: “I believe the patient has some mental states but not others.  Since she is behaviourally indistinguishable from a regular human, she has those states that are characterized in terms of their function.  But we have no reason to think she has any of the states that are characterized in terms of their purely qualitative aspects.”

Doctor #3:  “I think we need to know whether she has a Cartesian soul or not.  I think she doesn’t, because she doesn’t have a normal human brain.  So she does not have mental states.”

Doctor #4:  “Doctor #3—that’s ridiculous.  How could we ever tell whether something has such a soul, and why would it have to have human brain?  Similarly, Doctor #1—you seem to think that a human brain is required.  Isn’t that mere prejudice?   Doctor #2—I don’t understand (1) what these “qualitative” states could be, and (2) how we could know when anything had them.  The patient is behaviourallyindistinguishable from a normal human, so she has the usual range of mental states, regardless of what is in her skull.”

Doctor #5:  “I disagree with all of you.  I think we need to know exactly what’s in her skull before speculating further.  Although a human brain is not required for mental states, if what’s in her head is a digital computer, then clearly she has no mental states at all.”

Just then, the doctors notice that you are listening; they stop talking.
· Actual Topic:
Is it more reasonable to think that the patient has the usual range of mental states, no mental states, or only some kinds of mental states and not others?

Your main task is to answer this question and to present an argument that supports your answer.  You must also consider some alternatives to your view.  This means you should engage with at least two of the views of the doctors in the little vignette above.  Hint—they are supposed to represent some of the theories we’re looking at.

You should have a thesis, defend it, and, in effect, address an objection to your view.  Which of the doctors’ positions you spend the most time on will depend on what you think.  Also, you may flesh out what you take to be their positions, provided your expanded version is consistent with that they’ve said above.

It would be unwise to try to engage with all five doctors’ views.  Two is probably the right number, though three might also work.

You may find that you agree with one of the doctors’ conclusion, but for reasons different from the ones that doctor presents.  That’s fine. ………….

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