Post Author: Bill Pratt
Philosopher J. P. Moreland outlines several differences between physical and mental entities in the book he co-authored with Gary Habermas, called Beyond Death: Exploring the Evidence for Immortality. In previous posts, we have laid the groundwork for this discussion, so that you may want to review the last few posts before reading this one.
Moreland starts out with the basics. He reminds us of the following differences:
Mental events are feelings of pain, episodes of thoughts, or sensory experiences. Physical events are happenings in the brain and central nervous system that can be described exhaustively using terms from chemistry and physics.
Are these two kinds of events really the same kind of thing?
Physical events and their properties do not have the same features as do mental events and their properties. My thoughts, feelings of pain, or sensory experiences do not have any weight; they are not located anywhere in space (my thought of lunch cannot be closer to my right ear than to my left one); they are not composed of chemicals; they do not have electrical properties. On the other hand, the brain events associated with my thoughts, etc. – indeed, with material things in general – do have these features.
Moreland then asks us to to picture a pink elephant in our mind. When you close your eyes and look at the image, you will see a pink property. But note that there is no pink elephant outside you, but there is a pink image of one in your mind. In addition, there is no pink entity in your brain; a neuroscientist cannot open up your brain and see a pink entity while you are seeing the pink elephant in your mind.
Moreland concludes, “The sensory event has a property – pink – that no brain event has. Therefore, they cannot be identical. The sense image is a mental entity, not a physical one.”
This is just a basic introduction to the differences between mental and physical entities. We will introduce several more differences in later posts.