Profs & Pints: Philosophy and Star Trek, Exploring the Mind
Profs and Pints presents: Philosophy and Star Trek, Exploring the Mind, with Linda Wetzel, emeritus associate professor of philosophy at Georgetown University.
Boldly go where few philosophy students have gone before.
Linda Wetzel long taught a Georgetown University class called Philosophy and Star Trek, which used the popular television series to teach important philosophical concepts to students. She has graciously agreed to beam into the Bier Baron Tavern so that the rest of us can join her on that journey. Our destination: A talk that asks, What are minds?
We all think we have minds. But what are they? Are they physical or non-physical things? Plato thought they are non-physical: they are souls that survive the death of our bodies, and 2000 years later, so did Descartes. This philosophy, called Dualism, is so entrenched among many people that they think that mental means non-physical. But if minds are non-physical (meaning they have no energy, matter, mass, or momentum) then how do minds make physical neurons fire in our brains, considering that minds would have no energy, electrons, or neurotransmitters with which to activate a neuron. On the other hand, if minds are physical objects, which physical objects are they, what color are they and how much do they weigh?
Maybe minds are not objects, but rather properties of objects. To reflect this difference, we might ask: What is it to be minded? That is, what is it to have mental states, to undergo such processes as thinking, perceiving, feeling and sensing?
Star Trek showcased multiple answers to such questions, offering answers that corresponded to different philosophical concepts. With a little help from past Star Trek episodes, Professor Wetzel will take us on an exploration of thinking about this profound philosophical subject. Along with visiting Dualism, well make stops at Identity Theory, which identifies mental states with various neurological states, and Functionalism, which agrees with Identity Theorys view that thinking is a physical process, but extends the ability to think beyond living things, to artificially intelligent machines.
Both philosophy enthusiasts and Trekkies will be glad they bought a ticket to go on this ride.
The Bier Baron Tavern (View)
1523 22nd St NW
Washington, DC 20037
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