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Minds and mental phenomena: an introduction
Minds and mental phenomena: an introduction

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7 Conclusion

We have been primarily concerned to explore in a preliminary fashion the domain of the mental. We have looked briefly at various different kinds of actual and possible minds – normal and abnormal human minds, animal minds, angelic minds, and so on – and at the variety of mental phenomena – thought, perception, sensation, emotion, etc. Describing what a mind might be like is partly a matter of describing the kinds of mental phenomena that the mind in question exhibits. Conceiving of what a possible mind very different from our own might be like, however – the mind of an angel or animal, for example – is very difficult. In fact, it may be more difficult than we think, for as we saw, there may be surprising connections between what might at first sight seem to be relatively autonomous mental phenomena: between emotion and reason, emotion and perception, imagination and perception; as well as very surprising disconnections, for example, in the case of blindsight, between conscious visual experience and unconscious perception. Mind and mental phenomena are obviously very complex indeed and nothing very conclusive can be drawn from our preliminary and pre-theoretical reflections. They are intended as initial forays into the mental territory. We noted two important distinctions, however, that can be very helpful when thinking about the complex nature of minds: that between attitudes and experiences and that between dispositions and occurrences. These two distinctions can help us think about the nature of the mental.

We began this course by noting the distinction between the living and the non-living, and between the minded and the non-minded. It is a matter of controversy which living creatures in the world fall into the category of the minded. It is also a matter of controversy whether only living things fall into this category. Can machines such as computers and robots have minds? Can purely spiritual beings with no bodies have minds? If so, what could their minds be like?