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Identity Theory

  The identity (Latin, ‘sameness’) theory, in philosophy, holds that mental events are numerically identical with physical events. There are two versions of this view.

The type identity theory holds that mental types or properties are numerically identical to physical types or properties. So, for example, the mental property of being in pain is identical to the physical property of being a C-fibre stimulation. (C-fibre stimulations are neural events in the brain.) This has the consequence that every pain is a C-fibre stimulation, that every thing with the property of being a pain also has the property of being a C-fibre stimulation.

In contrast, the token identity theory holds that every event which has a mental property has a physical property, but denies that mental properties are physical. Every pain has some physical property or other. But while some pains may be C-fibre stimulations, others may not have the property of being a C-fibre stimulation, but the different physical property of being a D-fibre stimulation. An analogy is this. Every piece of furniture is physical, but furniture properties are not physical properties. Every chair has some physical property or other, but there is no physical property which all chairs have: some are made of wood, some of plastic and yet others of metal. AJ

See also dualism; identity; materialism; mind-body problem; types and tokens.Further reading D. Davidson, Essays on Actions and Events; , C. McGinn, The Character of Mind.



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