The clues of mental phenomena and its mystery
Philosophy of human persons is always a difficult question for humankinds. We are the highest form of animals equipped with supreme functions. We not only have soul which is the principle of life, but we are also believed to have mind or consciousness which is much more functional, divine and peculiar to the soul. But often times, we are unaware of what we are having and how our body operates in our daily life. Therefore, many philosophers, psychologists, religionists or even mathematicians, and sciences have been actively trying to define the nature, attributes and affections of our brain/soul. There are many different views and perspectives on the soul and the mind-body problem, such as materialism, physicalism, dualism, mysterianism and so on… So, how exactly do we understand humankinds, and all living beings as a whole? How exactly do we understand our own self? Do both material and immaterial parts exist? If so, how do they relate to each other? Although most of these questions have convincing answers, I believe we are still in the mystery of defining the true nature of mental phenomena.
(1) Thomas Nagel said that: “Conscious experience is a widespread phenomenon. It occurs at many levels of animal life, though we cannot be sure of its presence in the simpler organisms...” His main thesis is that fundamentally an organism has conscious mental states if and only if there is something that it is to be that organism – something it is like for the organism. We can say that consciousness is basically what makes living creatures perceive and think. Without consciousness, we are unable to think and perceive, and also unable to know what it is like to be like us. If so, we will also never understand or at least be aware of the mind and body relationship. Therefore, consciousness plays an important and indispensable role in helping us get closer to the mind-body problem. However, it is just “getting closer” not “getting to solve the problem”, because with consciousness, it seems hopeless to find any solutions for the mind-body problem. The reason has something to do with the fact that consciousness cannot be associated with any kind of reductionism which is a move in the direction of greater objectivity, toward a more accurate view of the real nature of things. Nagel believes that there are some experiences which are completely beyond human understanding. Although we have the capability to imagine being an organism such as a bat, it is just what it is like for US to be a bat, not what it is like for a BAT to be a bat. For example: We are able to imagine having poor vision, perceiving the external world primarily by sonar, or echolocation, flapping our arms to fly, eating insects, and perhaps hanging ourselves upside-down in an attic. But, without changing our fundamental structure, our experiences would not be anything like the experiences of the bat. Therefore, it was reasonable for Nagel to say that even if we imagine ourselves transforming into a bat, that will not be any good. It just reduces the whole thing to the point that if we want to get closer to the real nature of experience of other organism, we need to stop being us, stop being subjective. But in reality, we can’t stop being us, because if we did, it would not be us anymore. Continue from the previous points, if an organism has any sort of conscious experience, there must be some sort of subjective character of the experience for that organism. By being conscious, the organism is experiencing a wide range of awareness of surroundings and perceptions of emotion, sensation, and thought. There is something it is like to have a conscious experience of being in pain; an organism in pain experiences a dimension of subjective character that cannot be left out in a complete theory of the mind. Reductive arguments always seek to give an explanation in objective terms. In