Philosophy Discussion 2

The following is a “thought experiment,” so do not worry about whether this is possible in today’s actual world. This case is meant to examine your intuitions and reasoning about the nature of the relationship between the mind (mental states and processes) and the body. Consider the following scenario: 

You have developed a rare and strange disease. Doctors have seen it before, but there is as yet no cure. It is almost like the opposite of Alzheimer’s disease: the cells of all of your bodily tissues—your skin, your bones, your organs, and so on—are affected, but the brain is not. The cells of your body begin to decay and disintegrate over time, but here’s the strange part: your brain and its surrounding connective tissues containing the nerve networks and blood vessels are the only part of you that is not affected. The disease moves swiftly, and the doctors are ready with an artificial heart pump and synthetic blood to hook up to your brain. Within a few months, you have literally been reduced to a brain in a vat, but the disease has run its course and your brain, as was hoped, is still intact. Your brain can still function and stay alive, thanks to the blood and nutrients pumped in through the vat system.

For your response to this question, consider whether this brain in a vat is a person: Did you survive the disease that destroyed your body but not your brain? Can you continue to carry on the same mental life without a body? The real question at issue, of course, is whether the mind can exist apart from the body. In this case, there is still a small but crucial part of the body present. Using what you have learned from the reading (and your own research) on the mind-body problem, speculate on the nature of the form of existence possible for a brain in a vat. You may continue to add on to the scenario to develop your argument.


Word Count 400

                                                                           dualism vs materialism[2]
Photograph on the left is an image claimed to be the soul leaving the body captured by a gas-discharge visualization technique used in Kirlian photograhy [accessed at]. Images on the right are of a human brain and photo image of nuerons in the hippocamus [Max Planck Institute for Neurobiology, Munich, Germany accessed at].

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