Is Searle's 'chinese room' internally consistent? Does it not presuppose an agent who can understand the manipulation of symbols? If so, why not conceptualize our consciousness analogously to a computer's more fundamental structures bestowing it the capacity to 'run' softwares?

If the article portrayed our consciousness analogously to a computer's more fundamental structures bestowing it the capacity to 'run' softwares then it probably would be internally inconsistent. But it doesn't.

Is the relation of the mind to the brain analogous in some way to the relationship between a magnetic field and a magnet? I have in mind the way in which a magnetic field clearly depends on the physical state of an object--the magnet--but is distinct, and quite different from this object. Thanks!

Yes. I like to think of the mind as being or being like a computer program or ensemble of programs. A program is a pattern. Programs... patterns ... clearly depend on the physical make-up of the patterned material, but are distinct, and quite different from this material. Of course the material itself is just made of more patterns of smaller things. Magnetic fields are patterns too.

Can a thing being distinct from something else be considered a property of that thing? (If my mind is distinct from my body can "being distinct from my body" be considered a property of my mind. It seems to me that if something is distinct from something else it is separate from it and therefore cannot somehow be considered a property of it. But I have a feeling I am missing something. Thank you Samantha R.

It depends what you mean by ‘property’. If a property of a thing cannot be separate from it, and ‘being distinct from a thing’ is not itself separate from the thing, then ‘being distinct from my body’ would not count as a property of my mind. But why use the term ‘property’ so restrictively? One might try to distinguish between intrinsic and extrinsic properties. An intrinsic property of a thing would be one that is not separate from the thing – whatever that might mean. An extrinsic property of a thing would be one that is separate from the thing – whatever that might mean. Examples of extrinsic properties might be ‘being a daughter’, ‘being the daughter of a queen’, ‘being a princess’, ‘being outside France’, ‘being smaller than the garden of my uncle’. ‘Being distinct from my body’ could then be an extrinsic and not an intrinsic property of my mind. There is nothing wrong with extrinsic properties.

When I look at the room I'm sitting in, I am consciously aware of it as existing outside my body and head. So, for example, I can walk towards the opposite wall and I appear to get closer to it until I reach out and touch it. Now I understand that light is being reflected off a wall, travelling across a room, entering my eyes and this process creates nervous impulses. (In fact a physics would correctly point out that the photons that hit my retina are not even the same as the photons 'reflected' by any object). I understand that these impulses are processed in various parts of my brain, some unconsciously but eventually a mental "schema" representing the room is created. I also understand that there are other processes going on in my brain that create my awareness of different types of "self"s, that continually shift my awareness and that attempt to always produce a self-consistent view of myself and the world. However, my question is not about these (well not directly!). My question is simply how does...

Your answer may be in the question: "how does the representation of the room that my brain is creating, not appear within me but instead outside?" The representation itself is in your brain. But what it represents is the room outside your head, and that representational content is how the representation presents things to to you, how it makes things appear to you.

Are there any philosophers that affirm the substantiality of consciousness without either falling into dualism or property dualism? I personally think that mind is a genuine reality but I'm not so certain that it is a substance in the sense that it is a reality with purely mental properties that exists separately from anything else. But I personally don't think property dualism is a viable alternative either.

Yes. The pioneering physicalists of the 1950s and 1960s, Smart, Armstrong and Place thought that. See I think it is misleading to think in terms of dualism versus monism. Even familiar properties of middle-sized and large ‘physical’ objects, such as size, shape, colour, rigidity, tensile strength, fragility and hardness are not identical to any properties at the level of quantum mechanics. ‘Physical’ is a loose lay term of little real use, and what we call ‘physical’ comes in many forms. In my view, mental properties are just more properties of middle-sized objects that are made out of wavicles, but do not reduce to quantum-level properties any more than , say, fragility does. I recommend pluralism about properties, rather than dualism or monism.

how do i get out of the depression i am in???

Certainly consulting a physician is a good idea. There is a smattering of knowledge of some of the brain chemistry underlying some forms of depression and anti-depressants do work for some people. A physician might be able to offer some advice about different forms of therapy, such as CBT which is now popular. In any event also look into other forms of therapy, ask around, look on the net. If you are on facebook go to Depressives Anonymous and ask your question there, where you will probably get several informed responses and will be able to discuss your problem in more detail. Meantime try to do stuff you enjoy, try not to worry and chill out as well as you can.

Psychosis is often characterized as 'loss of contact with reality.' Three questions. (1) What is this 'reality' of which they speak? (2) Does anybody (even psychatrists) really know enough about this 'reality' to be able competently to deliver a diagnosis under that characterization? (3) What is this 'contact' of which they speak

It is a good question. It is possible that a sane personmight believe that the government is controlling him by means of radio signalssent to his dental filling when in fact that is far from the truth, and that apsychotic person might believe such a thing and the belief be true. Someapparently sane thinkers believe that the commonsense world as we normallythink of it, as populated with people, teeth, tables, chairs and governments isnot real. Notions like that of a government are too vague and confused to pickout genuine denizens of reality. Only science tells us what is real. Ifthat or some other skeptical hypothesis turns out to be right, then perhapsmost of us do not have contact with reality in respect of most of our beliefs.But that doesn't mean that we are all psychotic. We might be very badjudges about the justification of beliefs about empirical issues. So perhaps judgementsabout whether someone is psychotic should not require us to make judgements inrelation to other, tangential empirical...

Sigmund Freud told of a Jewish women who dreamt that a stranger handed her a comb. The women desired to marry a Christian man which triggered an emotional argument with her mother on the night prior to her dream. When Freud asked her what memories she associated with the word comb the woman told him that once her mother had once told her not to use a separate comb because she would "mix the breed." Freud then revealed that the meaning of the dream was an expression of her own latent wish to "mix the breed." Examples such as this seem like very persuasive evidence of Freud's theory that dreams are a form of wish fulfilment but many scientists and philosophers of science say that Freud's theories can't be scientifically falsified or that he lacks scientific evidence. But what constitutes scientific evidence? Surely Freud is a scientist because he grounds his theories in specific empirical clinical examples that he expresses clearly in a way that even the most uneducated person can understand them? The...

I don't myself think the term 'scientific' is a scientific term, nor have philosophers, such as Grunbaum or anyone else given it a very interesting or useful interpretation. Freud had a lot of ideas. So do contemporary psychoanalysts 100 years on. Psychoanalysis is no monolith. We can ask of any of the many many claims that psychoanalysts have made (under the heading of psychoanalysis, forgetting about what they say about other things): are they well backed by evidence and argument? Do they prove clinically useful and successful. Asking those questions is useful and interesting. Asking whether psychoanalysis is scientific is not.

The idea underlying many concepts of illness is that something has gone wrong with a biological system and some part of that system which has gone awry must be restored to it's proper function. The proper function of a biological systems is usually whatever allows that entity to live, breathe, exerts it muscles freely and vigorously without pain. When it comes to mental illness we extend that idea of proper functioning to anything that causes mental distress and is presumably due to biological problems with the brain. However there seems to me that something about that way of thinking is flawed because while it seems obvious when biological systems are disrupted rather than acting their natural course it does not seem obvious that mental distress is a product of biological aberrations. It seems rather like it is plausible that that is the normal course of life for humans even if that misery has a biological explanation.. So isn't mental illness essentially a flawed concept?

Hi, Miriam. I completely agree. The concept of illness is very flimsy. It is something like: an abnormality or disorder of a mental or physiological organ or system. Attempts to give a serious scientific account of 'normal' or 'orderly' have proved unsuccessful. Illness is just a vague folk notion and probably does not correspond to anything more scientifically or philosophically solid. Questions about the true underlying nature of specific mental illnesses (psychiatric disorders as they are now called), their treatment etc. are best deal with case by case. The same applies to physical illnesses though. There is nothing special about physiology here.