Cambridge handbook of consciousness by P. Zelazo, et al.,

By P. Zelazo, et al.,

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He explicitly criticizes Anaxagoras’s efforts to provide naturalistic, causal explanations of human behavior (see Phaedo, Plato 1961). Of course, Plato nonetheless has a significant role in the debate because he advances positive arguments in favour of the thesis that mind and body are distinct. He also provides a basic, and perpetually influential, tri-component-based psychological theory (see Republic, Book 4, Plato 1961). These facets of his thought illustrate the two basic aspects of the problem of consciousness: the ontological question and the issue of how mind is structured.

Brentano went so far as to declare intentionality the mark of the mental, the unique property that distinguished the mental from the physical. Of course, many other things, such as pictures, words, images on television, electronic computation, and so on, have representational content, but arguably these all get their content derivatively, via a mental interpretation. Uniquely mental or not, intentionality poses an extremely difficult question: how is it that mental states (or anything else) can acquire representational content?

With no conception of how the nervous system actually works and instead deploying a kind of hydraulic metaphor, Descartes envisioned nerve-based sensory and cognitive systems and a kind of network structure in the brain, even – anticipating Hebb – suggesting that connections in the brain are strengthened through associated activation. His notorious discussion of animals as machines can be seen as the precursor of a materialist account of cognition. 5 :3 17 But Descartes is most remembered and reviled for his insistence upon the strict separation of mind and body which, we are enjoined to believe, required sundering the world itself into radically distinct realms, thereby fundamentally splitting human beings from nature (including their own), denigrated emotion in favour of reason, and inspired a lack of respect for animals and nature in general.

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