Is it more reasonable to think that the patient has the usual range of mental states

Is it more reasonable to think that the patient has the usual range of mental states, no mental states, or only some kinds of mental states and not others?

Paper details

  • Topic Preamble:

Imagine that your best friend was in a car accident. She tells you that she was briefly unconscious and woke up in the hospital, where she still is. She’s also told you that she has been feeling fine for the last couple of days, but the doctors have decided to keep her in for tests. While in the hospital visiting her, you have heard rumours of a patient who lacks a normal human brain, but otherwise seems to be completely normal. Then you overhear the following conversation.


Doctor #1: “I think it’s pretty clear. Since the patient lacks a normal human brain, she does not have any mental states, since mental states are token-identical to states of the human brain.”


Doctor #2: “I agree with your conclusion, Doctor #1, but you’re seriously confused. Token-identity does not imply type-identity. I think that the patient does not have mental states because mental states, both intentional states and sensations or qualia, are type-identical to brain states, and she doesn’t have the sort of ‘brain’ that can go into those sorts of states.”


Doctor #3: “I partly agree with your premise, Doctor #1, but not at all with your conclusion. I think that every instance of a mental state is an instance of a physical state, but which physical state depends on what the creature in question is composed of. Doctor #2, perhaps it’s surprising that this patient has mental states, but clearly her ‘brain’, though not a normal human one, can realize mental states.”


Doctor #4: “You’re all focused on what’s in her skull. That simply does not matter. Having mental states is not having something that is “a mind”. It’s just behaving or being disposed to behave in ways that constitute having mental states.”


Doctor #5: “I disagree, Doctor #3 and, partly, Doctor #4. What’s in her skull allows her to have mental states such as beliefs and desires. These are not just behaviours or dispositions to behave. But there is no reason to think that she has sensations or qualia, Doctor 4.”


Just then, the doctors notice that you are listening; they stop talking.


  • Actual Topic:


Is it more reasonable to think that the patient has the usual range of mental states, no mental states, or only some kinds of mental states and not others?


Your main task is to answer this question and to present an argument that supports your answer. You must also consider some alternatives to your view. This means you should engage with at least two of the views of the doctors in the little vignette above. Hint—they are supposed to represent some of the theories we’re looking at.


You should have a thesis, defend it, and, in effect, address an objection to your view. Which of the doctors’ positions you spend the most time on will depend on what you think. Also, you may flesh out what you take to be their positions, provided your expanded version is consistent with that they’ve said above.


It would be unwise to try to engage with all five doctors’ views. Two is probably the right number, though three might also work. You can play them off each other.


You may find that you agree with one of the doctors’ conclusion, but for reasons different from the ones that doctor presents. That’s fine. Also fine is having a view that is not represented by the doctors. But you still need to engage with some of them.

You will likely find your views developing and perhaps changing as we go through the course material in the last part of the term. That’s fine—you are not committed to maintaining the position you take in your first version, and I fully expect that you will have more to say about some issues in the revision.

Also write an abstract above 50 words states the thesis and the rough structure of paper.



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