Philosophy Metaphysics of Mind
by
Darragh Byrne
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 October 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 10 May 2010
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0076

Introduction

Philosophy of mind addresses fundamental questions about mental or psychological phenomena. The question held by many to be most fundamental of all is a metaphysical one, often labeled the “mind-body problem,” which concerns the relation between minds and material or physical phenomena. Physicalists (and/or materialists) contend that mental phenomena are physical, or at least that they may be accounted for in terms of physical phenomena (brains, for example). Dualists deny this, maintaining that mental phenomena have fundamentally nonphysical natures, so that to account for minds we must assume the existence of nonphysical substances or properties. Nowadays physicalism is more widely espoused than dualism, but physicalists differ over which physical states/properties should be considered relevant, and over the precise nature of the relation between physical and mental phenomena. This is one of four bibliography entries on the philosophy of mind, and this particular entry concentrates on this metaphysical issue of the relation between mental and physical/material phenomena. Inevitably, there is a good deal of overlap between this and topics covered in the other three entries. For example, this entry includes authors who attack physicalism by arguing that it cannot account for the distinctive phenomenal qualities of conscious experiences; but that line of antiphysicalist argument features even more prominently in the entry on consciousness. Moreover, the other entries feature various issues that might perfectly properly be categorized as concerning the metaphysics of mind: for example, the debate between internalists—philosophers who hold that propositional attitudes (mental states such as beliefs and desires, which have representational contents) are intrinsic properties of minds/brains—and externalists, who think of certain attitudes as extrinsic or relational, is surely a question about the metaphysics of mind: but this is discussed in the entry on intentionality instead of here.

General Overviews

As the philosophy of mind has long been a central area of philosophical inquiry, a great many resources exist to guide and assist researchers. Few of these are exclusively dedicated to the area of philosophy of mind covered by this entry, but as that area has traditionally been so central, it features prominently in many of these entries, including the eight listed in this section. Burge 1992 and Davies 1995 are article-length introductions to philosophy of mind that emphasize metaphysical issues: the former is more historical in focus than the latter. Guttenplan 1994, McLaughlin, et al. 2009, and Stich and Warfield 2002 are useful reference books; the first is effectively an encyclopedia of key terms in philosophy of mind, while the latter two are collections of specially commissioned survey papers. For further detailed survey articles on key issues here and elsewhere in philosophy, Zalta (The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) is unbeatable. Chalmers and Bourget (PhilPapers) and Stone (EpistemeLinks) are online resources of interest to researchers interested in the philosophy of mind: the former is a huge register of academic papers available online, while the latter is a heterogeneous directory of further relevant online resources.

  • Burge, Tyler. “Philosophy of Mind: 1950–1990.” Philosophical Review 101 (1992): 3–51.

    DOI: 10.2307/2185043E-mail Citation »

    A long article-length critical survey of philosophy of mind in the latter half of the 20th century, by a leading practitioner. Burge’s collection, Foundations of Mind (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2007), contains a version extended to cover the 1990s.

  • Chalmers, David, and David Bourget, eds. Philosophy of Mind: Metaphysics of Mind. PhilPapers.

    E-mail Citation »

    This resource, a subsection of PhilPapers: Philosophy of Mind, is an invaluable catalogue of papers on the metaphysics of mind that are available (many for free) online, meticulously organized into more than sixty categories. A huge number of important recently published papers are available—and it is also a place for scholars to keep at the cutting edge by finding high-quality unpublished work on their research topics.

  • Davies, Martin. “The Philosophy of Mind.” In Philosophy: A Guide through the Subject. Edited by Anthony C. Grayling, 250–335. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1995.

    E-mail Citation »

    An excellent article-length survey of fundamental issues in the philosophy of mind. Sections 1 and 4 are of particular interest to those studying the metaphysics of mind.

  • Guttenplan, Samuel D. A Companion to the Philosophy of Mind. Oxford: Blackwell, 1994.

    E-mail Citation »

    This is essentially an encyclopedia of key concepts in the philosophy of mind. The entries are detailed enough that after consulting it, users should always know what they need to think about or read next. But they are a good deal less detailed than those in Stich and Warfield 2002, McLaughlin, et al. 2009, and the online entries listed here.

  • McLaughlin, Brian P., Ansgar Beckermann, and Sven Walter. The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Mind. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2009.

    DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199262618.001.0001E-mail Citation »

    A huge collection of specially commissioned critical surveys of cutting-edge work, written by leading philosophers of mind. The eleven essays in Part 1 are especially relevant here.

  • Stich, Stephen P., and Ted A. Warfield. The Blackwell Guide to Philosophy of Mind. Oxford: Blackwell, 2002.

    DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631217756.2002.xE-mail Citation »

    A useful collection of sixteen specially commissioned critical surveys of key topics in the philosophy of mind. This is less comprehensive than McLaughlin, et al. 2009 but high-quality nonetheless.

  • Stone, Thomas Ryan, ed. EpistemeLinks: Philosophy of Mind.

    E-mail Citation »

    A useful directory of online philosophy of mind resources, many concerning the metaphysical issues discussed here.

  • Zalta, Edward N., ed. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

    E-mail Citation »

    This is by far the best source of detailed up-to-date survey articles on issues in analytic philosophy generally. It contains hundreds of entries on philosophy of mind and related topics, many of which concern the metaphysical issues focused on here. The entries are generally written for a readership of professional researchers and postgraduate students, so undergraduates may sometimes find the articles difficult.

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