Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1560 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Black Studies - Philosophy

¶ … bat?," Nagel claims that it is possible through the use of knowledge to know all physical facts about bats, but this does not mean that we will every know the bat's consciousness (i.e., what it is like to be a bat). His article goes against physicalism because any physicalist argument is reducing the mental to the physical.

Nagel's entire argument is that is does not matter how much scientific facts a scientist can gather about a bat because he'll never be able to understand the bat's subjective state by simply knowing objective information. The subjective therefore cannot be reduced to the objective. It seems that Nagel is not trying to concern himself with physicalism at all; what concerns him is objectivity and subjectivity; however, the physicality of a bat (or a human, or any creature, for that matter) is important because physical nature has to be inexorably linked to the subjective state, i.e., everything that happens to us in our bodies or to our bodies our conscious experiences; therefore, our bodies must be related to the experiences that we have, but to what extent? It is not enough to say that simply having or experiencing a different sort of physical nature can help us know what it is like to be something because consciousness is outside the realm of physicality.

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The physical nature of the bat, or the physical nature of a dog or a human, is insufficient to explain or understand the conscious experience because there is an element to these different lives that is not just realized by the physical. Using Nagel's argument then, even if a person was to fully experience what it is like to be a bat, he or she would still not know what it is like to be a bat because experiencing something does not give a definitive perspective.

By looking at the minds of animals, it forces us to face the challenge of what it means to have a mind.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Angel What Is it Like to Be a Bat Assignment

Reductive arguments try to give an explanation in objective terms, but the bottom line is that conscious experiences are subjective and. The idea of an 'objective account' therefore does not make much sense to Nagel -- "no more sense than asking what my inward experiences are really like, as opposed to how they seem to me. How they seem to me is all there is to them. Any neutral, objective, third-person explanation has to leave out the essence of the experience."

People can attempt to understand what it would be like if one were a bat. Humans are able to fly in airplanes and if they wanted to hang upside down in a tree they could -- children do it every day. However, while hanging upside down, simply imagining that we are a bat does not help us to think like a bat or feel like a bat even though we are replicating bat behavior in our physical bodies. We might feel the blood rush to our head, or feel our stomachs drop as the airplane descends to the runway. While we can experience this as humans, it won't be the same experience that a bat feels while flying or hanging upside down because their physical nature is inclined to do those things.

Perhaps it would be easier perhaps for us to attempt to understand what it would be like to be a gorilla, for instance, because they can walk around on two legs. Or it would be even easier for us to imagine that we are different people, though we still wouldn't really know what it is like to really be them. Nagel points out,

The more different from oneself the other experiencer is, the less success one can expect with this enterprise. In our own case we occupy the relevant point-of-view, but we will have as much difficulty understanding our own experience properly if we approach it from another point-of-view as we would if we tried to understand the experience of another species without taking up its point-of-view.

Nagel clearly states that any human armed with imagination can "transcend inter-species barriers."

Setting aside temporarily the relation between the mind and the brain, we can pursue a more objective understanding of the mental in its own right. At present we are completely unequipped to think about the subjective character of experience without relying on the imagination -- without taking up the point-of-view of the experiential subject. This should be regarded as a challenge to form new concepts and devise a new method -- an objective phenomenology not dependent on empathy or the imagination. Though presumable it would not capture everything, its goal would be to describe, at least in part, the subjective character of experiences in a form comprehensible to beings incapable of having those experiences.

Nagel offers the example of a blind person who can detect objects in front of them, in a sonar-like fashion, using the taps of their cane. He purports that there is a chance that if one knew what that is like, then by extension they could possibly imagine what it would be like to have a bat's sonar.

He states that his point is not that a person cannot know what it is like to be a bat; rather, his point is that "even to form a conception of what it is like to be a bat…one must take up the bat's point-of-view."

Obviously, there is no way that a human can take up any beings point-of-view and so the task is futile.

Just as there are experiences the bat will never be able to experience such as what it is like to be able to communicate through words, we cannot experience what it is truly like to be anything else. Nagel does say that we can make representational attributions, but they will inherently be void of any type of subjective nature. There are simply things that we will never be able to know.

There is a direct influence on the issue of the mind and body. On the topic of experience, one thing is always certain to be unsuccessful is that there isn't any way that one can separate the perspective experience from the subjective experience. Nagel believes that we can't fix any mind-body problem and its relation to consciousness using old ways of thinking. For example, a person could tell someone else about what it feels like to feel grief, the subjective nature of the experience will never be known, even if we can know all of the objective facts about what this experience feels like.

The concept of consciousness has been the source of much mystification over the past twenty years, but "the appearance of mystery here is the product of conceptual confusion."

So, what remains of the 'qualitative character of experience'? We must distinguish. With respect to any experience we can ask what it was. The answer will specify the individuating character of the experience, e.g. whether it was feeling a twinge or a tickle, seeing a red rose or hearing the sound of music, feeling angry with a or jealous of B, playing cricket or going to the opera. We can also ask with respect to an experience what it was like to undergo it, and the answer, if there is one, will specify whether one found it enjoyable or unpleasant, interesting or boring, frightening or exciting, etc. None of this is mysterious, surprising or baffling. Nor is it the key to unlocking the mysteries of consciousness. For there are no mysteries -- only empirical ignorance and conceptual mystification. Disentangling one of the roots of the conceptual confusions that conjure qualia into being is a first step towards the demystification of consciousness.

"What is it like to be a bat?" The major problem in answering this question is… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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