The Identity Theory


The Identity Theory Essay, Research Paper

The identity theory, also known as reductive materialism, is one of the views

Churchland uses to describe mind-brain correlation. Churchland believes that

the mental states of the body are one and in the same (double aspectism) with

brain states. They are the same because the biochemical actions produced in

brain states (release of serotonin and acetylcholine) have direct interaction with

the mental states (mood disorders such as depression). With the help of

psychological and physiological evidence the identity theory can be better

supported. It has not yet been proven but following along with the symptoms,

diagnosis, and treatment of biochemical disorders of the brain the identity theory

has a strong case towards becoming reality.

Reductive materialism is known to be the reducing of mental activity into

physical activity. In its simplest form thoughts are just states of the brain. This is

basically a similar form of Descartes line, “I think, therefore I am” or vice versa.

Churchland first tries to parallel the identity theory with sound and light.

“We now know that sound is just a train of compression waves traveling through

the air…” (BR323). Society does know or has some common sense notion of

how sound travels, yet we still consider it just “sound”. Even though we are not

automatically thinking when we here a sound, “it is waves traveling through air”,

we are aware to the fact that is how sound travels. This parallelism is

intertheoretic reduction; taking an older version of reductive materialism and

using it to help explain a newer version, Churchland’s identity theory.

Neural activity and neuroscience play a major role in the identity theory.

“…the correct account of human-behavior-and-its-causes must reside in the

physical neurosciences” (MR324). Neurosciences and cognitive psychology

have been used together to explain brain states and mental states correlation.

“And those behavior-controlling internal operations are precisely what the

neurosciences are about” (BR324). Neuroscience is described as being

behavior that which is a result of neural activity in the brain (i.e. consciousness).

This consciousness is a result of neural activity in the brain producing thoughts

and then behavior.

The identity theorist resides on simplicity to describe mental/brain states

“…from the neural dependence of all known mental phenomena…” (TL325).

Once thought of as mental disorders, forms of depression are now recognized as

brain disorders. Understanding the biochemical determinants and the function of

the brain has helped to draw this conclusion. Biochemical changes in the brain

cause a person to fall into a depressed state. These brain states are the release

of low levels of the chemical serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that

controls much of the mental state (learning and memory function) with impulses

between neurons. This brain state simultaneously affects the mental state or

behavior of a person who shows signs of depression. Such signs are inability to

fall asleep at night, frequent panic attacks, loss of concentration, and thoughts of

suicide or even attempted suicide.

Depression has also been linked with the low chemical release of the

neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) acetylcholine in the brain, which affects

memory capabilities in the mental state. These chemical releases can be

controlled with the aid of medication which alter the releases of these chemicals

serotonin and acetylcholine.

Medication such as Zoloft, Imipramine, Xanax and Clonopin help to alter

the brain states. Once the medication has taken effect and the brain states are

under control, the mental states (thoughts) have been altered as well. It is very

hard to explain without using some doctor’s DSM-IV book but the effects the

brain/neural transmitters have on the mental states of a person are in fact the

same. The thought’s under the mental state are changed solely because of the

altering of the brain state. In other words reductive materialism is at work!

Concentration levels have increased and a calmness has overcome the fear and

guilt in the mental states brought on by the brain state’s biochemical releases.

Another form of a brain state-controlling device is an electronic device

known as a transcutaneous electronic nerve stimulator. This is used to control

the mental states of pain. It sends electronic currents to the brain which in turn

send pain-inhibitors affecting the mental states. Once again this shows that “our

behavior appears to have its basic causes in neural activity” (TL325).

Reductive materialism by Churchland’s definition is simply the reduction of

mental phenomena into physical phenomena, and vice versa making them the

same. This identity theory holds much ground in the psychological and

physiological forms as well. The example of depression is just one of many

claims that can be taken into consideration for the plausibility of the identity

theory. This brain disorder was used because of the personal involvement that I

have with it. Mental and brain states are one and in the same idea due to the

fact that I am experiencing these effects due to obsessive-compulsive disorder

and high anxiety which I am being treated for. Mental and brain states are

reduced into one with the occurrence of biochemical releases simultaneously

changing thoughts and behavior.

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