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Philosophy 4610

Philosophy of Mind
Week 4: Objections to Behaviorism
The Identity Theory

Psychology in Physical
Carnap (1891-1970) was a
dedicated physicalist who
believed that everything
in the world is physical
He argues that we can
take any sentence that
seems to describe a
mental experience or
event and rewrite it in a
completely physical

Carnap and Logical

Logical Behaviorism is the view that

when we talk about the mind, we are

really just talking about the behavior of
the body (and hence about something
that we can describe completely in
physical terms.
For instance, we might translate, Abner
is angry as: Abners face is red; his fist
is shaking; and he is yelling.
How might we translate other
mentalistic sentences?

Logical Behaviorism:
Logical behaviorism seems plausible for

mental states that are always closely

connected to behavior. But what about
my mental state of thinking about the
weekend or dreaming of a better future?
It seems clear that sometimes our
behavior does not manifest our true
mental states: for instance we may be
acting, or covering up how we truly feel.

Logical behaviorism:
According to Carnap, at least some mental

states are actually not actual behaviors but

rather dispositions to behave. To say that I am
thinking about the future is just to say that I
would say yes if I were asked whether I was
thinking about the future.
Just as a glass can be fragile even if it is not
actually breaking, I can be in a certain mental
state even if I am not actually exhibiting it
right now.

Dualism and logical

behaviorism: Summary

Descartes thought that mind and body

were two completely separate substances,

interacting through the pineal gland.
Ryle criticizes this view for failing to explain
our knowledge of others minds and for
giving an implausible picture of human
beings as ghosts in machines.
Carnaps physicalist picture logical
behaviorism identifies the mind with
outer, public behavior and with dispositions
to behave.

Putnam: Brains and

Hilary Putnam

(1926-) is also a
physicalist, but he
criticized logical
behaviorism and
contributed to the
development of an
alternative theory.

Problems with Logical


If logical behaviorism is true, then every

sentence about a mental event must be

translatable into a sentence about
behavior that means the same thing.
For instance, every time we say, Mr. A
is in pain, this must be translatable into
some sentence about Mr. As actual or
possible behavior.
But Putnam thinks this is not plausible.

Super-Spartans and XWorlders

To show this, Putnam

imagines a race of
Super-Spartans who
are culturally trained
never to show any signs
of pain.
We can even imagine a
race of X-Worlders who
not only never show
pain, but they never
even talk about pain.

Super-Spartans and XWorlders

For the X-worlders, it does not even make sense

to think that there is any translation from Mr. X

has pain to a sentence about pain-behavior.
Nevertheless it still makes sense to think they
may have pain:
What is true by hypothesis is that we couldnt
distinguish X-worlders from people who really
didnt know what pain is on the basis of overt
behavior alone. But that still leaves many other
ways in which we might determine what is
going on inside the X-worlders in both the
figurative and literal sense of inside. For
example, we might examine their brains. (p.

Smart and the Identity

J. J. C. Smart (1920-) gave

the classic formulation of

the Identity Theory
According to the Identity
Theory, the mind just is the
brain. When we talk about
mental events such as
pains, feelings, and
sensations, we are just
talking about states and
processes in the physical

Smart and the Identity

Like Carnap and Putnam, Smart is also a

Like Carnap and Putnam, Smart is also a


It seems to me that science is increasingly

giving us a viewpoint whereby organisms are
able to be seen as physico-chemical
mechanisms: it seems that even the
behavior of man himself will one day be
explicable in mechanistic terms. There does
seem to be, so far as science is concerned,
nothing in the world but increasingly
complex arrangements of physical

Smart and the Identity

But unlike logical behaviorists, Smart thinks

that all mental events such as after-images

can be identified with states of the brain:

Maybe this is because I have not thought it out

sufficiently, but it does seem to me as though,
when a person says I have an after-image, he is
making a genuine report, and that when he says I
have a pain, he is doing more than replace painbehavior, and that this more is not just to say
that he is in distress. I am not so sure, however,
that to admit this is to admit that there are
nonphysical correlates of brain processes. Why
should not sensations just be brain processes of a
certain sort? (pp. 61-62)

Objections to the Identity

According to the Identity Theory, the
mental state of having a toothache
or an after-image is the same thing
as a certain brain state, X. But we
can know about toothaches and
after-images without knowing
anything about brain states.


According to Smart, the identity between

an after-image and brain-state X is
something we do not necessarily know
about before we do science. Its like the
identity between water and H20. We
can know all about water without
knowing anything about H20, but that
doesnt mean theyre not identical. We
just have to do some science to find out
that they are.