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7 Summary

We have been primarily concerned to explore in a preliminary fashion the domain of the mental. We have looked briefly at various different kinds of actual and possible minds – normal and abnormal human minds, animal minds, angelic minds, and so on – and at the variety of mental phenomena – thought, perception, sensation, emotion, etc. Describing what a mind might be like is partly a matter of describing the kinds of mental phenomena that the mind in question exhibits. Conceiving of what
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Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence - see http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/ - Original copyright The Open University

6 The relations among mental phenomena

There is no escaping the fact that want of sympathy condemns us to a corresponding stupidity. Mephistopheles thrown upon real life, and obliged to manage his own plots, would inevitably make blunders.

(George Eliot, Adam Bede)

We have seen that it seems natural to say that while it is possible for machines and angels to have intellects superior to ours, it is also natural to say that
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5 Dispositions versus occurrences

Another important distinction to keep in mind is that between what philosophers call dispositions and what they call occurrences. A disposition is a tendency or propensity to manifest or exhibit something in certain circumstances. A wine glass, for example, has the dispositional property of brittleness: it will shatter into pieces when struck with enough force. But it need not ever actually shatter for it to possess the disposition of brittleness (it may be melted down into some
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Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence - see http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/ - Original copyright The Open University

4 The attitudinal and the experiential

Activity 3

Are there any mental phenomena that do not involve having an experience?

Discussion

Though the term ‘experience’ covers a lo
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3 Varieties of mental phenomena

We have been considering, in a very general and highly speculative way, what kinds of creatures have minds and wondering what these minds might be like. In doing so, we have made reference to various features or elements of mentality, such as thought, sensation, perception, imagination and emotion. These things seem to be typical examples of mentality. But what else counts as mental?

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1 The quick and the dead – the minded and the non-minded

Two of the most fundamental contrasts we draw are between living and non-living things – the animate and inanimate – and between things with minds or mentality and those without. Rocks and chairs are pieces of inanimate matter; they are not just dead, they are the kinds of things that can never have been alive, at least not in their present form. Plants, however, are living organisms, as are animals. But while plants are alive they do not have any kind of mental life. Their activities inc
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Learning outcomes

By the end of this unit you should:

  • be able to discuss basic philosophical questions concerning the mind;

  • have enhanced your ability to understand problems concerning the mind and mental phenomena and to discuss them in a philosophical way.

Introduction

This unit introduces some philosophical questions concerning the nature of the mind and mental phenomena, such as thoughts, perceptions and emotions. The unit considers what is involved in having a mind, whether there are different kinds of minds, and whether there is some characteristic that is shared by all mental phenomena.

This unit is an adapted extract from the Open University course<
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