A Buddhist Approach to the Mind-Body Problem/Consciousness

Over the course of the past week in class, we have been discussing the very interesting topic of the Mind-Body problem as it relates to philosophy. We have discussed many theories regarding this topic, and I offer an additional one in this post: the Buddhist approach to the Mind-Body problem. According to Buddhism, the mind and the body are unified, with consciousness (inner subjective awareness) being primary. As per Mahayana Buddhism, the body is viewed “as the densest layer of a spectrum of being that ranges in quality from the dense (body) to the subtle (mind) to the very subtle (pure awareness without thought).” According to a different offset of Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, this very subtle quality of consciousness is believed to be the essential quality of all things, including the body, and is therefore termed “Big Mind.” Interestingly, this view claims that because “Big Mind permeates virtually all things, there can be no actual duality between mind and body.” That is, the mind and body differ only superficially in quality. Additionally, an important point to mention is that though consciousness is seen as primary as per Buddhism, it is not the “first cause.” In other words, consciousness does not cause anything, because such a view would imply that there exists a duality between consciousness and that which is caused by consciousness, a violation of the core ideal of Buddhist philosophy that in the reality of things, there is no fundamental duality between a subject and an object.

Overall, I believe that the Buddhist view of the Mind-Body problem is interesting and certainly plausible. It seems to suggest that consciousness is a phenomenon that just exists within us and permeates throughout our mind and our bodies. Could it then be said that it is fundamental, like David Chalmers postulates? I think it can be, provided that “fundamental” does not imply causation.

Source: http://www.examiner.com/article/buddhism-brain-science-and-the-mind-body-connection

Philosophical Zombies (And Sex)

In our Philosophy class, we recently discussed the topic of “Philosophical Zombies” or people who can function normally in society and experience that same stimuli as everyone else, but have no deeper consciousness and do not feel it in the same way as others do. We discussed the functional consciousness and the phenomenal consciousness, which are basic stimulus response and what David Chalmer’s calls our “inner movie”, or our thoughts about everything happening to us, respectively. Philosophical zombies lack the phenomenal consciousness, making them experience the world in a bland manner.

So, then, can philosophical zombies even exist?

Honestly, I’m not sure. But I do know that there are people who experience nothing when others experience strong emotional and physical cues in the same context: sex.

Some people are asexual, and when they engage in sexual activity they generally do not feel the same as many other people do. Essentially, their phenomenal consciousness may be lacking when it comes to sexual encounters, so they may be seen as philosophical zombies.

Gay Marriage and Maybe More

In our Philosophy class, we discussed differing views on gay marriage provided by Maggie Gallagher and John Corvino. As a firm believer in gay marriage, I choose to side with Corvino, who argues that marriage should be granted to both opposite- and same-sex couples, since they do not necessarily have an effect on each other. I strongly believe that this is a right for all humans, to be able to commit yourself to the one you love for life, but I believe that everyone deserves even more than that.

Recently, a male Ohio State student kissed his boyfriend in public and got punched in the face by a bystander. In the music video “Take Me to Church” by Hozier, a gay couple gets caught and one member gets severely bashed by a bystander.

I do not believe that it is ever morally correct to hurt someone based off of one of their innate characteristics, such as homosexuality. I argue that we need more than just equality, we need acceptance. Everyone deserves to feel safe, and acceptance is the key to safety, therefore acceptance is necessary to fulfill everyone’s basic human needs.

See the article about the student here: http://www.thegailygrind.com/2014/11/08/gay-teen-punched-kissing-boyfriend-sends-beautiful-message-attacker/#.VF_GvIzQJqI.facebook

See the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYSVMgRr6pw

The Australian Study of Child Health in Same Sex Families (ACHESS)

In class yesterday, we discussed the idea of same-sex marriage and Gallagher’s stance on the topic. She is clearly opposed to same-sex marriage, and one of her arguments is that it is better for children to grow up in households with heterosexual parents than with homosexual parents. Having found this argument to be absurd, I decided to do some research and came across a landmark study from earlier this year (July 2014) which found that “children raised by same-sex parents thrive.” In this study, so called the Australian Study of Child Health in Same Sex Families (ACHESS), researchers surveyed 315 same-sex parents across Australia and questioned them about family cohesion, social adjustment, mental health, and general physical health of their 500 children. They then compared the results to those representative of the entire population of Australia. Interestingly, the researchers found that children raised by same-sex parents scored about 6% higher than those raised by opposite-sex parents, even when sociodemographic factors such as parent education and household income were kept constant. Thus, the conclusion was that children raised by same-sex parents are potentially happier and healthier than children raised by opposite-sex parents. Dr. Simon Crouch, the study’s lead researcher, explained that these observed results were due to the fact that parents in same-sex households must “take on roles that are suited to their skill sets rather than falling into those gender stereotypes.” Accordingly, he believes that the familial unit is more harmonious and therefore the children (in same-sex parent households) are happier and healthier.

I think that these results clearly contradict Gallagher’s claim that it is better for children to grow up in households with heterosexual parents than with homosexual parents. In fact, this study found the opposite to be true, that children raised in same-sex parent households do better than children raised in opposite-sex parent households. How would Gallagher respond to these findings?


1. http://www.glaad.org/blog/study-shows-children-raised-same-sex-parents-thrive

2. http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2014/07/05/3456717/kids-raised-by-same-sex-couples-are-healthier-and-happier/

Being “Gay” the Norm, “Straight” Minority Short Film

If you haven’t already watched this, I highly recommend it. This short film gives you insight on a different perspective where being gay is normal and being straight goes against social norms. The main girl realizes that she’s different from the other kids because she is attracted to boys. She tries to kiss the boy and he almost kisses her back but his friends catch them and he pushes her away. The girl gets bullied by the other kids physically and verbally. I can only imagine how hard it is to be gay in a society where the majority is straight.



Arguments from Social Science Against Same Sex Marriage

Today in class we talked about how Gallagher could have made her argument stronger. I couldn’t come up with anything at the time but I looked it up and found some things that can support her side. Children need a father figure and they won’t have that if both their parents are women. Fathers exercise a unique social and biological influence on their children. A recent study of father absence on girls found that girls who grew up apart from their biological father were much more likely to experience early puberty and a teen pregnancy than girls who spent their entire childhood in an intact family. This study, along with David Popenoe’s work, suggests that a father’s pheromones influence the biological development of his daughter, that a strong marriage provides a model for girls of what to look for in a man, and gives them the confidence to resist the sexual entreaties of their boyfriends. Children also need mothers. Children with homosexual men as parents will miss out on having a mother who provides emotional security and excel in reading the physical and emotional cues of infants. They also give counsel as they confront the physical, emotional, and social challenges associated with puberty and adolescence. Same sex parents can try to provide the emotional needs only mothers and fathers can provide but it won’t be as efficient.

Here’s the link to the studies: http://www.frc.org/get.cfm?i=if04g01

A Summary and Reflection of Prof. Tyler Doggett’s Video on “Killing Animals for Food”

Having watched the optional video (Professor Tyler Doggett’s video on “Killing Animals for Food”), I feel there is strong evidence that it is not morally acceptable to kill animals for food. Prof. Doggett starts off by asking the following question: if it is morally acceptable to kill animals (he specifically chose to use pigs as an example) for food, is it morally acceptable to kill people (human beings) for food? Obviously, we can all agree that the answer to the latter question would be no. Why then would it be ok to kill pigs for food? What is the difference between humans and pigs? Doggett discusses a number of possible responses one may offer, but I list just a couple here that I thought he argued particularly well against: humans and pigs have different genetic makeups and humans are stronger (higher up in the food chain). Let’s consider the first difference one may offer, that humans and pigs have different genetic makeups. In his hypothetical example, Doggett says to consider the case that aliens come to Earth and decide to farm humans. Their justification in doing so is that aliens and humans have genetic differences, so it is morally acceptable for them to farm humans. However, if humans shouldn’t kill other humans for food, why should aliens kill us for food? Exactly, they shouldn’t. If we translate this idea to the humans/pig scenario, it is clear that even though pigs are a different species than humans, it is not morally permissible for us to kill them for food. Now to the second response, that humans are stronger. That is, the response that humans are higher up in the food chain. Doggett argues that even if humans are higher up in the food chain, it is not morally acceptable to kill those lower down in the food chain for food. This is because if we take the example of 2 humans, one stronger than the other, it would obviously be wrong for the stronger to kill the weaker. Similarly, he argues, even if humans are stronger than pigs, it is not morally acceptable for humans to kill pigs for food.

Personally, I feel that Prof. Doggett makes a strong case for why we should’t kill animals for food, although he does not specifically address the issue of whether it is wrong to consume them. Perhaps one may argue that humans kill animals for food simply because they can? This seems to suggest that humans are in some way superior to other animals and therefore deserve extra rights. As Regan would argue, this would be blatant speciesism. One could argue against this and say that animals kill animals for food all the time in nature, but as a more intellectually evolved species, I feel that we humans should exercise better judgment and consider the perspective of the animals we are slaughtering. Therefore, like Doggett, I personally don’t believe it is morally acceptable to kill animals for food.

Source: http://www.wi-phi.com/video/killing-animals-food

Circle of Life

In to his paper The Case for Animal Rights, Tom Regan argues that people cannot hurt animals because they have inherent morals and are closely related to humans. Therefore, people should not eat animals or harm them in any way: we will no longer interfere with the circle of life (that Regan argues we must become a part of). Essentially, this extreme attack on our culture in regards to animals is a huge contradiction.

Since animals must be on the same “playing field” as humans, this must work in the other way. Humans must partake in the circle of life, but also must not kill any other animals. All animals are immediately deemed immoral. Many proponents of Regan place children, mentally-handicapped people and animals as the same, but if they were to go and kill everything with their bare teeth, this would definitely not be considered moral.

Regan’s response is not unheard of, however. Factory farming and a vile treatment of animals is not right, and animals do have some inherent morals, possibly even as much as humans. Animals, however, can not be treated exactly the same as humans because they simply are not the same.

Why is this? Probably because we’ve chosen to separate ourselves from animals. But that’s another discussion for another post.


In our Philosophy class, we discussed the idea of equal opportunity and if it truly exists, especially within the United States. The general consensus was that people are born into conditions very different from one another, giving some a head start to success and others some setbacks. An idea discussed to make this system more fair and have more equal opportunity is higher taxes on the rich and smaller taxes on the poor. While I completely agree that this effort is correct, I also believe that there needs to be a more equal distribution of said taxes. Many of the taxes in nice neighborhoods contribute to nicer schools, but the smaller taxes in worse neighborhoods contribute to schools that have worse resources, further continuing the vicious cycle of poverty. If there was a more equal distribution of taxes across a state, region, or town, then the schooling system would be more fair, resulting in a better chance of equal opportunity.


In class we discussed Justice by Nagel and how he suggests that in order to create equality, the government should increase the taxation of the rich and give the money to the poor. I agree that there should be limitations because people will start taking advantage of it. The government should make sure that the people receiving financial help are in need of it. I volunteered for this event called “Good Neighbors” that provides food and entertainment for the homeless while they take turns choosing from an assortment of clothes and blankets to take with them. I saw homeless people with iPhones and other advanced cellphones and name brand shoes like Nike and Jordans. It made me think that if they can afford to buy expensive things, why can’t they afford to buy their kids food or a home? It relates to what we just discussed because people do get away with taking advantage of different financial aid the government provides and that makes it unfair to the rich. In order for Nagel’s idea to work, they have to set up very strict rules in order to send the money to those who are truly in need.